Major fire in north Bengal market, 150 shops gutted

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Jalpaiguri (WB), Dec 18 (PTI) A major fire broke out at a market in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district in the early hours of Friday, gutting at least 150 shops, officials said.

The flames were spotted around 3 am at the Dhupguri market by a shopkeeper, they said.

Six fire tenders were rushed to the spot but the firefighting operations could not be started for some time as there were no water bodies nearby, officials said.

Finally, water was fetched from the Kumlai nullah, while several shops were gutted in the meantime.

'It was very difficult to get water to fight the fire as there are no water bodies near the market,' District Fire Officer Pradip Sarkar said.

Four more fire tenders were brought in from Dinhata in Coochbehar district, Toofanganj and other areas to douse the flames, officials said.

The blaze was brought under control around 6 am, they said.

No one was injured in the incident, they said, adding that the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

North Bengal Development Minister Rabindranath Ghosh visited the area and spoke to officials. Local MLA Mitali Roy of the Trinamool Congress was also at the spot.

'I have come here on the instructions of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,' Ghosh said.

He also briefed Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim about the situation and urged him to take steps to hand over the market to Dhupguri Municipality. At present, it is in the jurisdiction of the zilla parishad.

'Around 150 shops were gutted in the fire,' the minister said.

The state government will extend all possible help to the shopkeepers at this time of crisis, he said, adding that the gutted shops will be reconstructed.

Environmentalists alleged rampant filling up of water bodies in the area, leading to the crisis for water.

Water bodies have been filled up in the area, causing the water crisis at the time of need, as a result of which so many shops were gutted, they said. PTI CORR SBN SOM SOM