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Tank close shave in bus fire

- Two NBSTC vehicles gutted

Raiganj, Dec. 5: The presence of mind of a North Bengal State Transport Corporation employee helped prevent a major accident in the busy Ukilpara area here this morning as he, along with others, pushed away a burning bus from near an underground diesel reservoir at the NBSTC depot.

Around 9.30am today, driver Krishna Chandra Dutta spotted flames coming out of a parked bus and soon the fire spread to another vehicle close to the diesel reservoir.

“The bus was close to the diesel reservoir and the flames had started spreading on the left side of the vehicle. I climbed on to the driver’s seat but could not start the vehicle as its battery had been removed. I hopped off and raised the alarm hearing which other people at the depot rushed in. Around 10-12 of us started pushing the bus from the rear,” said 48-year-old Krishna Chandra Dutta.

He added that they wrapped up their hands with gunny bags to prevent burns while pushing the vehicle.

“By the time we had managed to push the bus about 15m away from the reservoir, two fire engines from Raiganj arrived at the depot. We helped the firemen douse the blaze. The flames had engulfed both the buses. We removed all gas cylinders away from the welding room close to the spot and the firemen saw to it that the flames do not touch the electricity metres on a wall close to one of the buses,” Dutta said.

He added that it took almost an hour to control the blaze.

Later Dutta fell ill and he was taken to the district hospital. Doctors said his blood pressure had shot up and he had breathing problems. Dutta was released after a check-up.

“Had the fuel in the reservoir caught fire, there could have been a major catastrophe and we do not have the infrastructure here to tackle such a situation. We would have had to call in fire engines from Malda, 75km away and Balurghat and Islampur, both 110km from here,” a fire department official said on condition of anonymity.

Amal Sarkar, a mechanic with the NBSTC who retired a year ago, said this morning, he had gone to the bus depot to inquire about his dues. “I have not got any pension. I came to the depot around 9am to ask about my dues. When I saw people pushing the bus away from the reservoir, I joined in too,” Sarkar said.

Subir Saha, the divisional manager of NBSTC, said the cause of the fire was not yet known. “Two of our buses have been completely gutted. We are making an inquiry to ascertain the cause,” he said.

Tilak Chowdhury, a member of the NBSTC board, said a departmental inquiry had started. “We have to applaud the presence of mind of the staff members who prevented a major fire. The depot is surrounded by houses and a market on three sides. A major fire could have broken out. I will recommend at the next board meeting that the courageous staff be rewarded,” he said.