A fire broke out in a flat on the 16th floor of a 17-storey building at the Diamond City North housing complex in northeast Kolkata’s Nagerbazar and spread to two more apartments on Wednesday afternoon.
At least 20 residents living in the tower that caught fire were trapped in the smoke in various parts of the building. Thick fumes had enveloped the staircase and made it difficult for the occupants to come down by themselves.
Officials of the fire department said all the trapped residents had been rescued unhurt. Among those stuck were several elderly persons and at least one child. At least five persons had taken shelter on the rooftop, from where fire department officials brought them down after the building cooled down a bit.
Police and fire department officials suspect an electrical overload or a short-circuit could be the reason behind the fire in a flat where work on interior design was underway. Three flats on the 16th floor — 16B, 16D and 16E — were worst affected, an official said.
The building’s water hydrant worked and that helped contain the fire, a fire department official said.
Fire officials said the cause of the blaze was not known till Wednesday evening. “The labourers who were inside the flat that first caught fire are unable to say what exactly happened. It appears the fire could be the outcome of an electrical overloading. A forensic examination of the spot would reveal the cause of the fire,” said an official in the fire and emergency services department.
Diamond City North, a complex that is home to more than 1,000 families, has 30 towers and is located next to the Diamond Plaza shopping mall in a congested pocket. The tower that caught fire is the tallest with 102 flats.
The fire was first spotted around 3pm on Wednesday.
Homemaker Shivani Joshi, who stays in one of the affected flats, said she took her aunt Srikanta Changani and uncle Shree Changani to the rooftop on the 17th floor after realising that smoke was coming out of a neighbouring flat.
Her husband Ganesh Joshi, a businessman, said he received a call from his wife around 3.30pm.
Firemen try to douse the flames in the 16th-storey flat from a window on the 15th storey at Diamond City North
“She informed me that a fire had broken out and I rushed back as soon as I could but I could not reach them as the entire 16th floor was covered in dense black smoke. Some firemen told me they are safe and had taken shelter on the roof,” said Joshi.
Shivani and her family members were helped off the roof by firemen after they cooled down the floor and the smoke was let out. Several windows in the fire exit’s stairwell had to be broken to let the smoke escape.
“We spent close to an hour on the roof and are relieved that we could finally get out. We saw flames leaping up from one corner of the roof at regular intervals and had taken refuge on the other portion of the roof. We were afraid that this portion too might catch fire,” said Shivani.
Arijit Bose, vice-president of the residents’ welfare association, said he received an alert from a resident around 3.10pm that smoke was billowing out of one of the flats.
“Dense smoke slowed down our initial efforts to contain the fire,” fire minister Sujit Bose said later.
Sharmila Das, who stays on the 10th floor of the affected tower, said she and her son Ayangshu who had just got home after writing his CBSE board examinations woke up to frantic knocks on the front door.
“The alarm systems did not work. We did not hear any sirens,” said Das.