KOCHI: A footwear-making unit was gutted after a fire broke out on its ground floor on SRM Road, Kochi, during the wee hours of Friday. The owner and employees of Liva Footwear suspect the involvement of their neighbour behind the incident. Thirteen employees were sleeping inside the unit when the fire spread to the ground floor where footwear soles were stocked around 3.30am.
“As smoke billowed out, the workers escaped through the rear door and tried to douse the fire. However, the fire spread quickly and people could not control it. The fire tenders reached the spot by 4.15am. The fire was completely doused by 6am. Five fire tenders were used for dousing the fire,” Shamsheer Khan, an employee and eye-witness of the incident, said. Had the fire tenders arrived in a short time, the damage would have been much lower, employees said. The estimated loss is between Rs 15-20 lakh. The rear part of a car parked in the neighbouring compound also burnt as the fire spread outside.
“The fire started from the front side. The soles were procured from New Delhi. The entire stock was lost. Luckily the fire did not spread to the first floor where a textile unit is functioning. There was a large stock of fabrics on the first floor,” another employee said.
Bihar native Murshid Alam, who is the owner of the manufacturing unit, suspects the involvement of a neighbour in the incident. “One of our employees was beaten up by the neighbour after he gave a chocolate to the neighbour’s daughter on Thursday. Even though we called the police, our employee fled from the place. The neighbour threatened that he will make sure that our company won’t function here for a long time. Also, the fire began from the outside area near the gate of the compound wall. If it was related to an electrical short-circuit, the fire should have started inside the building. We have raised this suspicion before the police and they have promised to investigate the matter,” Alam said.
Police officials at Ernakulam North police station said that they are checking the CCTV cameras in the area. “We are awaiting the report from fire and rescue services department to ascertain the cause of the fire. We are also collecting CCTV footage from the neighbouring houses. Similarly, we are also trying to retrieve the content in the hard disc of the CCTV camera in the building, which was also destroyed in the fire,” said the police. Officials at Gandhi Nagar Fire and Rescue Services station said that the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. “There are chances of fire starting following a spark from the KSEB line. But the exact cause of the fire cannot be confirmed now,” an official said.