Kolkata fire: From fathers, uncles to grandfather, inferno claims breadwinners
A 15-year-old boy, Raju, whose migrant labourer father Rajnish, who slept in the shop at nights after a hard day's work, was standing beside the gate crying inconsolably.
"Please bring back my father, I don't know where he is," he wept.
A 30-year-old woman, Rubina said that her husband, Ismail, a daily labourer in the market and her family were to leave for a wedding at home next month for which they had saved up.
"We were about to leave for our village for my sister-in-law's wedding next month. We don't know what will happen now," she sobbed.
A 10-year-old boy, Sonu along with his uncle was looking for his father and grand father, who had a grocery shop in the market.
"I am searching for my father Ratan Lal and my grand father. Both of them had stayed back in the shop last night.
Please help me find them," he entreated his eyes welling with tears.
According to Fire Services minister Javed Khan, most of the bodies of the 19 victims were charred beyond recognition.
The minister said that those who died were either labourers working in the market or shopowners who slept in their shops at night.
Around 200 shops on the ground floor of the market were destroyed in the devastating fire that broke out at 3:50 am before spreading to the floor above.
Shop-keepers stumbled around crying as they looked in shocked disbelief at the debris of their shops.
"I had invested around Rs 5 lakh for buying raw materials a few days ago. It was totally burnt. I don't know what I will do now," said Alok Ray, a shop-owner.
Another shop-keeper, Bappa Mazumdar, said he did not know how he would run his family with his shop devastated.
Although, the West Bengal government has announced compensation of Rs two lakh to the next of kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 to the injured, the local people questioned why fire-fighting arrangements were not made.
"What was the government doing all these years? Why did the government not ensure that a proper fighting system was installed?" a local man, Rajat, asked.
The local people said that after the fire at the AMRI Hospital in December 2011 which claimed 94 lives, the authorities were urged to implement proper safety measures at the market, but it fell on deaf ears.
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