Property worth millions destroyed in Kolkata fire

April 12th, 2008 - 6:37 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Kolkata, April 12 (IANS) Property worth millions of rupees was destroyed in a fire in the 125-year-old flower market near Howrah Bridge in Kolkata, according to traders. Over 250 shops were destroyed in the fire that devastated the Jagannath Ghat market (also known as Mullik Ghat) Friday night.

The market is the largest wholesale flower market in eastern India.

Sudhangshu Sil, chairman of the Jagannath Ghat Phoolbazar Parichalan Samiti told IANS: “Out of 263 flower stalls, 256 have been gutted in fire.”

“There were stocks worth around Rs.80,000 in each stall. All the air-conditioners used for preserving flowers in the market have also been destroyed.”

Fire Brigade officials said the fire spread after a gas cylinder kept at the trade union office burst.

A stiff Breeze from the nearby Ganga and combustible objects like plastic and hay kept in the office rapidly spread the inferno in the adjoining stalls.

Flower trader Madhab Sarkar told IANS: “Now that my 70-year-old stall has turned to ashes, my only source of sustenance has been destroyed as well.

“Most of us had stocked up four times more flower than usual for the Bengali New Year Monday. We are shattered.”

The Jagannath Ghat market exports flowers to Middle east and Europe. The net sale every day amounts to around Rs.2 million.

West Bengal is India’s third largest flower producer after Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Sudhangshu Sil said: “The greatest consolation is (that) in February the Calcutta Municipal Corporation sanctioned the plan for a three-storey building with basement here, which will rehabilitate the 5,000 flower traders and be India’s first flower auction centre.

“Chief minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is going to flag off the Rs.260 million project in May,” he said.

The new flower complex is to be facilitated with a sorting-grading and packaging unit, a cold storage, a laboratory to extract flower oils and a guesthouse.

Sil said for the time being the traders will have to adjust to the unfavourable situation.

“We are trying to temporarily rehabilitate them nearby so that their business is not affected. However there will be no flower crisis in the city as our daily supply from 4,000 flower growers of West Bengal will not be affected,” he said.

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