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By A Newsman

Kolkata, 20 July: A major fire broke out in a high-rise building at Pretoria Street at Bhowanipore area in Kolkata today noon leaving several people trapped for up to 30 minutes.

Fire-fighters rescued as many as 12 persons trapped in the building and eight of them have now been hospitalised as they fell sick by inhaling smoke.

The fire started around 12.40 pm on the third floor of the building named Aspirations Vintage. The floor houses the regional office of Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL), a Central public sector undertaking. Next to the building is located Abhinav Bharati High School.

Getting to know of the fire, 10 fire-tenders rushed to the spot one by one. As the fire-fighters were trying to gain access to the building sealed with a glass façade or glazing, around 100 people comprising GAIL staff and visitors remained trapped inside.

Some of them came out on the windowsill at the backside and clung to the narrow concrete slab about 55 feet above the ground. Others remained cooped up inside the GAIL office even as thick smoke filled the interior of the facility having centralised AC and no widow for ventilation.

Using two hydraulic ladders, fire-fighters reached to the third floor and broke the glass glazing to rescue those trapped. They rescued as many as 12 persons, while others either managed to come out using the stairs or were rescued by their peers / colleagues.

The 12 whom fire-fighters rescued were extremely traumatised. Eight of them have been admitted to SSKM Hospital with breathing trouble and nausea caused by inhaling of smoke when they were trapped in the building.

The fire spread panic in the nearby Abhinav Bharati High School. The authorities, with help from police, evacuated the students and took them to an area opposite to the school. Getting to know of the fire, panic-stricken parents of the students came rushing and the school management subsequently handed over the children to them.

State fire minister and Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who rushed to the spot, said that fire-fighters have been able to rescue all those trapped and douse the flames by around 3.30 pm without allowing the fire to spread to the nearby building. He said that the cause of the fire could not be known as yet but the flames have burned down everything in the office.

“Since the building’s façade was completely sealed with glass glazing with no windows, fire-fighters had to struggle a lot to gain access to the affected floor. Besides, the narrow road made the task all the more difficult. But thankfully, they have been able to contain the fire without any loss of life,” Chatterjee said.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation headed by Chatterjee sanctions building plans within the city limits. The fire department, again headed by him, issues the mandatory no-objection certificate after assessing level of hazards and fire-fighting mechanism in a high-rise.

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