Scorched memories: Fire at Park Street (updated)

Got an SMS out of the blue from Scarlett. 'Fire at Peter Cat. Lot of smoke'.

I checked with my brother. He SMSd me saying that reports suggested the many were injured and 45 fire tenders were at work. Another SMS from Scarlett. 'Reports of 3 dead. Thirty plus injured'.

The Facebook walls of fellow Calcuttans and ex Calcuttans began to fill up. Links to news sites suggested. Familiar names. Flurys. Peter Cat. Stephens House. Names we have grown up. All under siege. As were the people in the building. Any fire is terrible and nightmarish. But what is worse is when you see your memories get scorched. And Park Street is dear to anyone who grown up or lived in Calcutta.

I hope the fire is coming under control. It is difficult to say at this point. Hope that there is no further loss of life. That there are no more people trapped. No more injuries and burns. Spare a thought for those desperate to get news of their near and dear ones. Let's hope that their ordeal ends soon. Let's keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer. Hopefully someone will listen. Something will work.

This is one news report on the fire that I got on the CNN IBN site.

Update 25/3:

  • Saw the first line of Bachi Karkaria's piece in TOI today which beautifully summed up what many of us are feeling: 'Every heart with 'Calcutta' engraved on it felt the clammy hand of dread as the flames engulfed Stephen Court and flung wide open the shuttered memories' Bachi Karkaria, TOI
  • The death toll in this nightmare is 24. Countless others wounded or severely injured
  • I found some succour in this article from HT which spoke about heroes in the fire, people we would never even glance at normally

Update: 25/ 3

I was watching a citizen's show on Star Ananda this evening. Started with two young execs who were in the building recounting their experiences. Their efforts to help. The horrors they saw. Numbers have gone up to 27 as people who fell and broke their bones or went into coma are succumbing to their injuries. As with any tragedy in our country it was the common man (and woman) who were helping each other out to the extent possible. Check out the pictures in this MSN link, all the rescuers are regular people. I felt someone walk over my grave as I heard their stories. Tragedies are not uncommon. But the one at Park Street or the 2611 attacks especially struck home.

When I begun this post yesterday I wrote that I hoped that someone would listen to our prayers. Since then the death count has gone up from 7 to 27.


The Happy Fork said…
such a sad event.
Scarlett said…
As of this mornings newspapers, 16 people died. We saw footage of people jumping off the 5th/6th floors to save their lives. They died anyway. The saddest part is that for 45 minutes there were no firemen & no hydraulic ladders were brought to help people escape. When will we ever learn?
Sharmila said…
Too bad ... was following the news ... it seems the wooden staircase and all were the reasons for the fire to go on and on. Old world charm in question. :-(
And can you inagine ... the only main exit was locked!
The trip that we could not make had included a lot of stoppages at Flurys .. now what, I wonder. So sad.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
True, 'old world charm', cannot be an excuse for a lackadaisical approach to human life and safety. It's amazing that this could happen at the heart and pride of the city. Imagine how unsafe the hinterland would be? What happened was straight from hell, yes there were memories which affected us more just as all Mumbaikars took the 2611 killings as a personal tragedy. Strangely enough sepia images of chelo kebab and strawberry cubes were pushed back by visions of the human horrors that happened there
Pinku said…
sad and pure wastage. when will we ever learn.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
True Pinku... I so hope that there was no foul play involved
Bong Mom said…
Didn't know about this, until late last night. Will read your links now
Miri said…
Do we even realised how avoidable these deaths were? Just having the roof door able to be unlocked and the fire department having NETS would have saved so many lives.

Having fire regulations actually in place and monitored like the installation of water sprinklers and fire alarms would have saved even more lives!! :(

Kalyan Karmakar said…
True Miri. It was straight out of a horror film. There were heroes. Like the two boys on TV and innumerable others I am sure. But no happy ending or miracle. My blood chilled as I heard them talk about people jumping out in desperation with no nets with the fire brigade. Some bystanders were trying to help with bedsheets, etc.

And we like to think of ourselves as an economic super power. And this happened at Bangalore a week or so back.