Kolkata: Seventy-two hours after it erupted, the blaze in Burrabazar’s Nandaram market is still going strong.
Every time the firefighters beat it back above the eighth-floor of the city’s tallest illegal structure, it regroups to hit back with amazing ferocity. Playing hide and seek with them, the fire starts all over again in pockets cleared by the men of the West Bengal Fire and Emergency Services and the Army Ordnance Corps.
The fire is able to keep up its dance of death because of what it is feeding upon. Diesel, cooking cylinders, paint, varnish, thinner, even a nail polish manufacturing unit, apart from thousands of bales of cotton and synthetic garments.
Uphill task: An army man climbing the stairs of the Nandaram market building, the upper floors of which are still caught in the raging inferno.
“The entire market is a huge warehouse of these objects,” said Gopal Bhattacharya, the state fire brigade’s pointsperson in the area. “To make matters worse, there are hundreds of small shops all padlocked and shut with the fire raging inside.”
The Army Ordnance Corps personnel are using their high-powered jets to attack the fire from below and keep the temperature of the structure down.
“We are attacking the fire in tandem with the local fire brigade,” said Lt Col S.K. Vohra, commanding the army firefighting contingent.
Vohra dismissed fears of an imminent collapse of the building. “There is no fire till the sixth floor and the structure of the building is holding,” he said. “If at all there’s any collapse, it’ll be of superficial structures like ledges and the walls on the firebreak side.”
Explaining the reasons for the stubborn resistance put up by the fire, Vohra said, “Accessibility is a major problem as there is only one narrow passage and that too is clogged with stacked merchandise.”
He also attributed the continuance of the fire to the stiff breeze blowing in from the Hooghly flowing a few hundred metres to the west. “There are no buildings between Nandaram and the river to catch or deflect the breeze and this building is thus getting the full force of the breeze which is fanning the flames.”