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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 July 2024

Fire breaks out at Acropolis mall in Kasba: Panicked shout in staircase to move faster

Biswajit Dutta, an official of Ssoftoons Animation, said though the building had two emergency stairway exits, one was blocked from the fifth floor and all had to get down through the other staircase causing great inconvenience

Monalisa Chaudhuri Kasba Published 15.06.24, 06:22 AM
Firefighting team at the spot after a fire broke out in a shopping mall, in Kolkata, Friday, June 14, 2024.

Firefighting team at the spot after a fire broke out in a shopping mall, in Kolkata, Friday, June 14, 2024. PTI

An executive of an animation company housed on the sixth floor of Acropolis Mall said it took him over 20 minutes to come out of the building as he squeezed his way with hundreds of others through the lone emergency stairway, dark and cluttered with varied objects.

Biswajit Dutta, an official of Ssoftoons Animation, said though the building had two emergency stairway exits, one was blocked from the fifth floor and all had to get down through the other staircase causing great inconvenience.

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“I will never forget those 15-20 minutes,” Dutta said. “It was dark and smoky. There were hundreds of people — men and women — in the staircase, all trying to rush out. We all were stuck. If someone pushed, it triggered commotion and further delay. I almost tripped several times,” the Behala resident said.

Officials of the fire department confirmed that people were not allowed access to one of the staircases from the fifth floor as it was close to the “seat of the fire”.

Allowing people to use that staircase could have been “disastrous,” said a fire department official.

Many panicked and shouted, asking those ahead to move faster. Many tried to shove past others but in vain.

Earlier, sometime after noon, people in the building heard a loud siren. It was the fire alarm. Then a voice over the public address system asked everyone to evacuate the building.

“My colleagues and I immediately headed for the emergency exit. As we rushed downstairs, the staircase started filling with smoke and it became difficult to breathe. By the time we reached the fourth floor, the air around us was choking. It was hot and stuffy. The entire staircase was spiralling with people,” Dutta said.

Hundreds of people came out of the building unscathed, braving the heat and smoke. Anxious phone calls to family and friends followed.

Several people said one person was seen being taken out of the building on a stretcher. “Maybe he was unable to walk on his own in this heat and smoke,” said a Mall employee.

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