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Fire kills two, destroys 250 houses
Dry spell helps fast spread of flames

Malda, May 14: A woman and a boy were burnt to death and at least 10 people suffered injuries when a fire raged through a village in Harishchandrapur this afternoon, destroying at least 250 houses.

A fire brigade officer said the prevailing dry spell had helped the blaze spread fast at Bidyanandapur village.

The fire started from the kitchen of Asad Ali’s house around 2pm. “The fire spread within minutes from one house to another. We are having a dry spell and the fire spread through the huts. We had informed the fire station in Harishchandrapur, around 10km from the village, about the fire 10 minutes after the blaze had begun. The fire engines came around 3.30pm. By then, the entire village had been flattened by the blaze,” said the sabhapati of Hasrishchandrapur II panchayat samity, Jamil Firdaus Firdaus.

He said the bodies of four-year-old Dil Mohammad and 68-year-old Sarapjan Bewa had been recovered from their respective houses after the fire died down. “Both the victims were alone in their houses,” he said.

Biplab Roy, the block development officer of Harishchandrapur II, said the entire village had been affected by the fire. “Some houses were made of brick and tin roofs. Others were made of bamboo and mud. According to our preliminary estimate, 250 dwellings have been razed to the ground. The villagers could not recover anything. At least 200 families have been affected. Plastic sheets and food will be distributed among them,” he said.

Asked about the delay by the fire tenders in reaching the village, Santanu Sinha, the officer-in-charge of the fire services for Chanchal subdivision, said the fire tenders were busy extinguishing a fire in another village. “We had gone to Berakandi village, about 10km from Bidyanandapur, to tackle a fire which destroyed four houses. After that, we came to Bidyanandapur. Two fire tenders, one from Harishchandrapur and one from Chanchal, were sent to Bidyanandapur,” Sinha said.

“The fire spread quickly because of the ongoing dry spell. The dwellings are close to each other and that also helped the flames spread quickly,” he said.

Malda, which is 95km from Bidyanandapur, recorded the maximum temperature of 40.7 degrees Celsius today.

Sources said 10 people had been injured in the blaze and were taken to the Chanchal subdivisional hospital. “The condition of four is stated to be critical. The other six injured persons have been given first aid and released from the hospital,” said a source.

People of Bidyanandapur said most of the men in the village were away when the fire broke out. “We were either working in fields or away for some errands. I had gone to the market in Chanchal. When I heard about the fire, I rushed back home. My house was completely destroyed. Most of us had kept our cattle at home because of the dry spell. My four cows perished in the fire. I had Rs 70,000 in cash in the house and the money was lost in the fire,” said Jamshed Ali a farmer.

He said men from adjacent areas and those working nearby in the fields had tried to tackle the blaze. “Some people tried to put out the flames with water from nearby ponds. But all was lost,” he said.

Sanimuddin Ahmed, the son of the woman who died, said he could do nothing to save his mother.

“I was irrigating my paddy field about 2km from my home. My widowed mother was alone. When I heard about the fire, I rushed back to the village but my mother could not be saved,” he said.

Malda district magistrate Sharad Dwivedi said the block administration had been asked to provide relief to the affected people. “I have also asked for a list of the affected people,” he said.