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Tea factory in ashes

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Siliguri
  • Published 14.01.08
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Siliguri, Jan. 13: Nearly 600km from Calcutta where flames licked up Burrabazar, a factory of Long View Tea Estate was almost reduced to ashes early this morning.

Radheshyam Tiwari, the chief executive officer of the garden, has pegged the loss at Rs 2 crore. The building was around 130 years old and located 25km from Siliguri in the Kurseong subdivision.

The four wooden floors of the 200ftx150ft structure were completely damaged and so were the tea sorting and withering machines that were kept inside.

Fire engines from Siliguri and Kurseong and a water tanker from Sukna army base helped douse the flames after a joint effort of more than two hours. Fire brigade and police officials suspect short circuit to be the cause of the blaze.

The garden, established in 1873, is one of the biggest estates in Darjeeling district with 1,020 hectares of land. With 1,244 workers on its rolls, the annual production of tea in the garden is 7 million kg, which is 10 per cent of the yearly produce of the hills.

“It was 3.30am, when Maila Khiul, one of the four night guards on duty, first spotted the flames and informed us,” said Tiwari. “I immediately contacted our assistant manager Rajendra Khandelwal, whose bungalow is located 2km from the factory and near the Garidhura police outpost. I also called up the Siliguri and Kurseong fire stations.”

Two fire engines from Siliguri reached the spot at 5am. Later, two more arrived from Kurseong along with an army water tank. “We took more than an hour to bring the flames under control,” said Bishnuprasad Dhar, the sub-officer of the Siliguri fire brigade. “With no reservoir nearby, we had to go back around 4km, to a jhora, since water in the tank had finished by then.”

“Preliminary inquiry points to short circuit. Added to that were the presence of gas cylinders used for welding,” said Dhar.

D. Lepcha, the station officer of the Kurseong fire station, said if the blaze had spread to the adjoining generator room, the fire could have gone out of control.

Tiwari said a meeting would be held soon to decide on how to rebuild the factory and replace the machinery.