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Maths journals lost in CU library fire

A fire in the library of the applied mathematics department on Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College campus damaged many priceless journals on Tuesday.

Witnesses said the fire started in an old air-conditioner and was detected around 2pm. It was put out around 3pm.

The library is on the third floor of NR Sen Building that houses the 120-year-old applied mathematics department.

Sources said the fire had damaged many applied mathematics journals written in Russian, some of which were more than 60 years old. The air-conditioner was gutted.

“We heard a loud thud at one corner of the library. When we looked back we saw an air-conditioner in flames,” said a student who was in the library when the fire broke out.

The sources said several research scholars and students were in the library at that time. “They all rushed out in panic. No one was injured,” said a source.

“The 7,000-plus books in the library were not damaged,” the source added.

The fire brigade was immediately alerted but before a tender could arrive, employees of the university’s electrical department rushed to the site and switched off the mains. That prevented the fire from spreading.

“The fire was controlled within an hour but none of the books was damaged,” said Amit Roy, the science secretary of the university. “A report on the incident will be sent to the authorities.”

The fire broke out at one end of the library where Russian journals were kept.

“The Russian journals are invaluable to scholars researching in certain areas of applied mathematics such as differential equation, analysis and speed mechanics,” said a senior teacher of the department.

“The journals were stored at a corner of the library because not too many scholars referred to them as they were in Russian. Earlier, scholars used to learn Russian to go through these journals,” the teacher said.

Some teachers alleged that the university authorities had been lax in taking measures to prevent a fire. “The university has installed a number of new air-conditioners in the portion of the library used by students, scholars and teachers. The other air-conditioners are old and ill-maintained. They pose a fire hazard,” said a teacher.