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Fire heat on godowns

Mahesh Babu had to spend over six hours to rub out the black mark left on his skin by ash and soot after two godowns next to his house in Tiljala caught fire early on Sunday.

He is also suffering from a breathing problem after being exposed to the black smoke that billowed for over nine hours from the godowns, which were allegedly run without licences.

“We knew we were living on the edge and had approached the local councillor and police. But no one acted on our complaints. We hope the fire will finally prompt the government to take action against the illegal units,” said Babu, a resident of Abinash Chowdhury Lane.

Radial Leathers and Radial Rubber Industries, at 9P and 9Q Abinash Chowdhury Lane, were gutted in the blaze. On Monday afternoon, those exposed to the smoke were still coughing and rubbing their skin to remove the black layer.

The police are looking for the owners of the godowns. “We are waiting for the forensic report,” said an officer of Topsia police station.

The neighbourhood, in ward No. 59, has over 50 factories and godowns dealing in leather and rubber. The fire has turned the focus on their legal status. Most allegedly do not have proper fire-fighting arrangements and violate environmental norms. Many of the smaller factories pilfer electricity.

“We will find out a way to stop the mushrooming of illegal units,” said Snehansu Roy, the councillor of ward 59.

The factories and the godowns in the locality were closed on Monday. Vehicles carrying goods to and from the units could not be seen either. “But they will be back in action once the heat dies down,” said Farzand Ahmed, a local resident.

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