KOLKATA: The massive fire at Bagree Market near Burrabazar area - the city's commercial hub- could have been averted had building owners installed adequate fire safety measures, Mayor Sovon Chatterjee said.
However, some traders said the multi-storey market had fire alarm systems on every floor. Despite warnings, the market authorities did not install adequate fire safety equipment in the building, the mayor, who also holds the Fire Services portfolio, told reporters.
"I visited the building on several occasions and held meetings with market authorities, asking them to take steps to ensure the safety of the building. Last month, too, a meeting was held in this regard. A water tank on top of the market did not have proper pipelines to take care of eventualities," he said.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has formed a committee to review the status of commercial buildings across the city.
"Based on reports filed by the KMC, we haul up building owners. The review is carried out every year," Chatterjee explained.
The fire department had in the past recommended steps to authorities, but no such measures were taken, he claimed.
"The market authorities kept insisting that we extend the deadline for installing firefighting equipment.
The tragedy could have been averted if they took action on time," he maintained.
Asked if he would take action against defaulters, the mayor replied in the affirmative.
"The incident could have been averted if safety measures were taken on time. The market authorities will be held accountable for the blaze. As of now, we are trying our best but fire fighting operation is tough here because of the number of buildings on the street," he stated.
The fire that broke out around 2.30 am on the ground floor of the building on Canning Street quickly spread to the upper floors.
Thirty fire tenders have been pressed into service to contain the blaze that has been raging for over 11 hours.
With just a month to go for Durga Puja, the fire has spelled doom for several traders.
Anil Mehta, one of the shop owners, said, "I have lost everything in the blaze. My store, as well as the godown, has been gutted in the fire".
Another shop owner, who did not wish to be named, said he paid for fire safety measures every year.
"Every floor has a fire alarm. I and other shop keepers make yearly payments for purchase and upkeep of fire fighting equipment," he claimed.
When PTI contacted Radha Bagree, one of the owners of the building,, she refused to comment on the matter.
Another cloth dealer, who lost his shop in the fire, said several meetings were held on safety measures, but no initiative was taken as such.
"I have no clue about what equipment was installed in the building, but I remember authorities had requested KMC for help during meetings.
If steps had been taken, the mishap could have been averted," he added.