Friday, June 14, 2024
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90 die Kolkata hospital blaze, 7 held

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A patient is rescued at the AMRI Hospital where a major fire broke out, in Kolkata on Friday morning. (PTI)

Kolkata: Ninety people, most of them patients in sleep, were on Friday choked to death in a major fire suspected to have been caused by inflammable material stored in the basement of a multi-speciality private hospital here in the wee hours.

The fire in the basement of AMRI Hospital in South Kolkata’s Dhakuria locality was first noticed by local residents at around 3.30 am who rushed to the gates but were stopped by security guards.

The fire spread swiftly and the poisonous smoke was sucked by air conditioning ducts that carried it through the rooms of and the corridors of the seven-storeyed hospital located in a densely-populated area.

Most of the victims were asphyxiated to death. Except four hospital staff, the rest were patients most of whom were not mobile. Among the dead were an 80-year-old cancer patient and Congress leader Ajoy Ghosal and a 65-year-old Bangladeshi national Gauranga Mandal.

The patients struggled to find their way out in the smoke-filled buildings with flames leaping from the floors below as the hospital staff were said to have fled.

Locals alleged fire tenders arrived on the scene nearly two hours after the blaze started. Seven members of the hospital board, including leading industrialist SK Modi and one owners of the hospital RK Agarwal, were arrested on charges of culpable homicide and negligence, Joint Commissioner of Police Damayanti Sen said.

The fire-ravaged hospital presented a ghastly sight as bodies lay strewn on the floor of an operation theatre on the second floor of the main building while anxious relatives milled around hoping desperately that their near and dear ones were not among them.

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation, Fire Service and Disaster Management Minister Javed Khan told reporters. Kolkata Police Commissioner RK Pachananda said 89 people — 85 patients and four hospital staff — died in the incident.

All but four bodies have been identified and handed over to their relatives. Later, another person who was rescued from AMRI Hospital and taken to another private hospital died, city police sources said on Friday night.

There was no clarity on what triggered the fire but the combustive material in the basement lead to the spread of the flames.

The nearest Lake police station was first informed at 4:10 am with the fire brigade arriving at the AMRI Hospital at Dhakuria within 10 minutes, Khan said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the hospital, ordered a probe. She also directed cancellation of licence of the hospital.

“As per my announcement that offenders will be apprehended…,” she said. Besides Todi and RS Agarwal, RS Goenka, Ravi Goenka, Manish Goenka, Prasanta Goenka and Dayananda Agarwal on the board of the hospital were also arrested. (PTI)

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