A 45-year-old man, who lived with his elderly mother at their Lake Town apartment, died in a fire that police suspect was triggered by a cigarette butt early on Tuesday.
Thick fumes were trapped in the house that had all its windows closed. Police said Arindam Biswas, 45, died inside the flat, while his mother Sonali Biswas, 65, was almost choked before she could manage to open the door and get out of the house.
The police said the exact cause of Biswas’s death — whether he died of burns or after inhaling carbon monoxide-rich fumes — will be known after the post-mortem.
The incident happened in a first-floor apartment at Kalindi Housing Estate in Lake Town sometime past Monday midnight.
“We were alerted by neighbours who heard screams of help from the flat. It was around 12.30am. I saw thick fumes coming out through the corners of the main door although it was locked from inside. We knocked on the door and then tried to break it open, but failed,” said next-door neighbour Abhinab Acharya.
The door opened after some time. “The elderly woman opened the door. The moment the door was opened, thick black smoke gushed out of the house. With a lot of effort, she managed to get the keys to the lock on the collapsible gate and came out. There was so much smoke that none of us could stay inside the apartment for more than a few seconds,” he said.
Residents of the neighbourhood had by then dialled 100 to alert the police. Bidhannagar police, in turn, got in touch with the fire department.
A team of police officers and fire fighters rushed to the spot and doused the blaze.
A resident of the building said that shortly after the fire was doused and the firefighters entered the flat, Biswas’s body was taken out in a body bag.
The police said Biswas had been staying with his mother for a few months. “We came to know that earlier he used to stay somewhere else in Bidhannagar,” said an officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate.
A team of officers from the forensic department will visit the spot to ascertain the cause of the fire.
“Findings of a preliminary investigation suggest that a cigarette butt caused the fire. Maybe the victim was asleep and hence, was unable to detect the fire in time,” said the officer.
The smoke generated from the fire was trapped in the house that had all its windows closed. Most of the households keep their windows closed in winter.
The city has witnessed several incidents of people choking to death in their rooms after inhaling carbon monoxide-rich fumes from a fire that was triggered by a burning cigarette butt or an electrical short-circuit.
In 2012, a 29-year-old youth had died in his sleep at his Behala home possibly after inhaling smoke generated from a fire in the mattress in the adjoining room.
The police suspected that he had been smoking and possibly did not stub the cigarette butt before falling asleep.