Thirty-seven shops were gutted while another 20 got partially damaged in a blaze that broke out at the local market in Siliguri subdivision’s Naxalbari, around 25km, late on Sunday evening.
The incident has hit traders ahead of Durga Puja.
Traders are yet to assess the loss caused by the fire.
“The blaze has completely gutted 37 shops in Naxalbari while some other shops have been partially damaged. I have reported the incident to the chief minister. On Tuesday, a meeting has been convened in Siliguri where the sabhadhipati of Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad and officials of the district administration would be present. At the meeting, necessary steps will be drawn up to compensate affected traders,” said Siliguri mayor Gautam Deb.
On Monday, Deb, along with sabhadhipati Arun Ghosh, visited the affected market, spoke to traders and assured them of all help.
Sources said the fire broke out around 9.30pm and started engulfing one shop after another. Fire engines from Naxalbari fire station rushed to the spot and tried to douse the blaze. However, as it could not be controlled immediately, additional fire tenders were sent from Matigara and Siliguri. Eventually, around 1am, the flames came under control as five fire engines worked together.
Among the shops affected include those selling garments, footwear, cosmetics and stationery products.
A section of traders expressed their disappointment over the functioning of the firemen. “More prompt steps by the fire service department would have reduced the damage,” said one of them.
Mayor Deb also said he would look into the issue. “I have spoken with traders. If any gap is found in due course on the performance of firemen, I will talk to Sujit Bose (state minister for fire and emergency service) and department officials so that it can be averted in the future. The district magistrate will also send a report to the chief secretary,” he said.
Nikhil Ghosh, the secretary of Naxalbari Byabsayee Samiti, said they had no inkling as to how the fire broke out. “Fire services and the police are inquiring into the cause. There has been extensive damage and we can cite the losses only after a shop-wise assessment is carried out,” said Ghosh.