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From black tragedy emerged many heroes

The ghastly fire at the AMRI Hospital that claimed over 80 lives also brought to the fore the undying human spirit and threw up heroes who staked their lives to save people whom they had never met before.

When blaze struck the basement of the hospital annexe building early Friday and toxic fumes quickly spread to the other floors, trapping hundreds of people, Babu Mondol, Ajoy Pal and Ashok Razak took charge.

The trio have become local icons in Panchanantala -- the area next to the fateful AMRI Hospital -- but they regret they would never forget the faces of those whom they couldn't help.

"I have heard that officials are saying that fire broke out at 3.30 a.m. But the fact is that fire broke out at 2 a.m. because we could see smoke coming out of the hospital. We tried to alert the guards but they abused us," said Mondal.

Mondal, along with his friends, stayed put outside the hospital. According to them, around 3.00 a.m. the smoke turned thicker.

"When the black smoke started coming out, we along with some of our relatives alerted the guards. They said they will take care of it and asked us to go. But I along with my friends started pelting stones at the glass windows so that the smoke could come out," said Mondal.

Most of the patients were rescued by the local youths.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has lauded the local youths for the selfless job they did.

"I, along with Razak, broke the window panes, entered the first floor and rescued 10-15 patients. We were helped by our friends in bringing them down. But when I came down, I could see many people on the upper floors, banging the window planes. I tried to go up but failed to help them because of the fire," 20-year-old Pal said.

Pal said that neither security guards, nor the hospital authorities took a lead in the rescue operations.

"There was so much smoke that it was impossible to enter the area without masks. If the guards had opened the gates earlier, we could have saved many more people," said Razak.

"When the black smoke became thicker, we couldn't find any officials and guards and most of the staircase gates were locked," said Razak.

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