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By A Newsman

Howrah, 08 February: A group of mentally retarded patients had a close shave today after a fire at Howrah District Hospital was doused in time.

The fire broke out on the third floor of the hospital building around 4.40 in the afternoon. The floor houses the male mental ward and some 5-6 patients were admitted there at the time of the fire.

On spotting the fire, the hospital staff evacuated the patients at once and called up the fire brigade. Also, the hospital staff got into dousing the fire by fetching water in buckets and making use of the fire extinguishers that are installed at the hospital.

Although four fire tenders rushed in soon, but by then the staff had succeeded in containing the flames.

Preliminary reports suggest that the mentally challenged patients had smoked bidi in the ward and threw the lighted butts on a corner of the ward where blankets and bed-sheets were lying in heap. It is not clear as to how the mentally challenged patients managed to get hold of bidi and matchbox or a lighter.