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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Park Street inferno shows how heart of Calcutta remains a fire trap, with repeated incidents

No one was hurt in the fire on Tuesday, but that was because the firefighters first removed the cooking gas cylinders

Our Bureau Published 11.06.24, 03:49 PM
Smoke billows out after a fire broke out in a restaurant, at Park Street in Calcutta, Tuesday, June 11, 2024.

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out in a restaurant, at Park Street in Calcutta, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. PTI

A massive fire at a closed restaurant on Tuesday morning at the junction of Park Street and Camac Street revived memories of a fire at Stephen’s Court 14 years ago and threw the spotlight back on how the heart of Calcutta remains a fire trap.

The building where the fire erupted on Tuesday, known as Park Centre at 1/1 Camac Street, houses the 1000 BC restaurant and the Drunch All Day Café and is close to several offices and residential buildings.

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“Had the fire happened during the night it could have turned into a major disaster,” said a firefighter, during a break from the firefighting operations. The flames raged on for around two hours and required 15 fire tenders to douse.

“Our maid saw a thick cloud of smoke and alerted me. I was in the temple room. There was so much smoke I could not see anything,” said a woman who lives in a flat behind the building.

State fire services minister Sujit Bose visited the spot.

The exact reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained, though the firefighters suspect the origin of the fire is located in the rooftop restaurant and spread through the asbestos roof and other inflammable substances stored.

The firefighters focused on removing the cooking cylinders stored in both the eateries. Had those exploded, it could have multiplied the damages by several times and even caused fatalities.

According to the locals, the restaurant that caught fire was out of operation for the last two or three months for renovation. There are a number of eateries and restaurants – some of them among the oldest and most famous in Calcutta – and newer pubs all along the area.

Park Street fires over the years

On March 23, 2010, one of the worst fires in the street that is synonymous with Calcutta’s winter festivities had left 43 people dead.

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out in a restaurant, at Park Street.

Smoke billows out after a fire broke out in a restaurant, at Park Street. PTI

“After the Stephen Court fire, the then chief minister had ordered an audit of all the buildings which were carried out,” said DP Biswas, who was the additional director general of fire services when the Stephen Court incident happened.

A fire was reported at the same building Park Centre three years ago.

On June 8, 2021 fire broke out at the fifth office of a pharmaceutical company right next to a bank on Park Street. Though a few employees were present, they were quickly evacuated. In 2012 and 2018 as well, fires had broken out in the same building.

Locals look from a nearby building as smoke billows out after a fire broke out in a restaurant, at Park Street.

Locals look from a nearby building as smoke billows out after a fire broke out in a restaurant, at Park Street. PTI

Twice in 2014 and 2019, a fire had broken out at Olypub, one of the most popular bars in the city. It was closed for several months.

“There seems to be a lack of safety system in place, otherwise these incidents could not have happened again and again,” said Biswas. “There is definitely a lack of supervision on the part of the civic authorities and the safety measures have to be regularly monitored.”

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