KOLKATA: A devastating fire gutted most of the shops in Kolkata's Hatibagan Market, one of the oldest in the northern part of the city, early today.
The fire was brought under control at around 11.00 AM, fire brigade sources said, adding that firemen were still working to ensure that it did not spark again from any ember.
There was no report of any injury.
Altogether 32 fire engines were pressed into service to bring the blaze under control.
Later, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the spot and said that an investigation would be conducted to ascertain whether it was an accidental fire or a case of mischief.
"I have received complaints that some persons were suspiciously moving about in the market for the last few days," she said.
"The police, fire brigade, disaster management group and the corporation will investigate whether the fire was an act of mischief or was accidental," Banerjee said.
She said though it was a private market, the government would try to extend some help to the stall owners who had lost everything in the fire.
Blaming some hawker leaders for allowing stalls to come up anywhere in and around markets for monetary considerations, Banerjee said, "Such activities are clogging the markets and also making timely and fast intervention impossible in case of such disasters."
She asked other markets in the city to take a lesson from today's incident and to maintain proper fire fighting facilities as prescribed.
Banerjee said that she would ask the Mayor to make alternative arrangements for stall owners to do business till a new, remodelled market came up.
The chief minister lauded fire department personnel, disaster management personnel and the administration for taking quick steps and said, "They have done a good job."
The fire broke out at around 2:30 AM reducing to ashes shops selling meat, fish, fruits and ghee in the sprawling market.
Some people trapped inside the market were rescued safely, fire brigade sources said.
Fire Services Minister Javed Khan, who went to the spot, said that the cause of the fire was under investigation.
Top police officials, including Commissioner of Kolkata Police R K Pachnanda and DC (North) Vishal Garg also visited the site and supervised rescue operations.
Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed to ensure there was no law and order problem.