At least 18 people were killed and several others sustained severe burn injuries when a fire engulfed a market housing a godown-cum-office complex in central Kolkata's Sealdah area early today.
The dead included a woman, police said, adding that 15 people have been rescued. The fire was detected at 3.50 am when the victims were fast asleep, they said.
The injured were rushed to the state-run NRS and Medical College hospitals. Fire Services Minister Javed Khan said that six persons were brought out from the burning godown in an unconscious state by the firemen who were trying to locate if others were trapped inside. Casualties are expected to rise.
He said 26 fire tenders fought the blaze for over three hours to bring the situation under control. Firemen and police personnel cordoned off the area to facilitate fire fighting operations.
The cause of the fire and the extent of damage were under investigation, police said. Khan, who rushed to the spot and personally supervised fire fighting operations, said there was no fire safety arrangement in the market and blamed the authorities for the lapse.
"We will take action against the market authorities for not having any fire safety arrangement", the minister said. He said the entire building housing the market was unauthorised and illegal and had come up during the previous Left Front regime.