Silchar, Sept. 15: A 66-year-old retired schoolteacher died in a fire, which destroyed an old cinema hall and an adjoining house at Central Road here in the wee hours today.
The blaze, which started around 2am, also damaged a few houses and shops inside the erstwhile theatre complex, which was known as Kalavati. Property worth a few crores was damaged in the fire, according to a preliminary assessment by fire service officials.
The victim has been identified as Maya Lala, daughter of one of the hall owners, Harihar Lala.
Thirteen fire tenders were rushed to the spot from the main fire station here, nearby block headquarters and Cachar Paper Mill in Panchgram of nearby Hailakandi district, to bring the blaze under control.
A senior fire official said the hall could have been torched by land mafia.
The fire has brought to the fore the inadequate arrangements and shortage of firemen at the fire service unit here. It has only four fire tenders, all of them allegedly outdated to handle big blazes.
A fireman today said the present strength of 25 fire fighters is “grossly inadequate” as the minimum requirement is about 70. At least six fire tenders are required, he added. The fire services unit in the city also lacks modern equipment like high turntable ladders or snorkels.
“A blaze such as this can be properly contained in the quickest possible time if the firemen are properly trained and the fire station is adequately equipped with modern fire-fighting gadgets,” another official said.