At least 40 shanties were gutted as a major fire broke out at a slum in north Kolkata's Bagbazar area on Wednesday evening with firefighters struggling for hours to bring the blaze under control, officials said.
At least 24 fire tenders were pressed into service as the fire broke out at 6.55pm in the Hazari Bustee on Kshirode Vidyavinode Avenue beside the Bagbazar Women's College near the Chitpore Lock Gate Bridge, they said.
Several blasts were heard which police suspect to be of gas cylinders at the shanties on fire, officials said.
There were no reports of any casualty as most of the people were evacuated on time, they said.
"The entire slum has turned into ashes. The situation is not under control as we are yet to reach the source of the blaze. We have shifted all the residents of the locality. Even those from the nearby highrises have been shifted to a safer place as there were blasts. We cannot take any chance," an officer of the Kolkata Police said.
The blaze also spread to the adjacent Sarada Mayer Bari as the firefighters escorted the monks out, an officer of the fire department said.
Disaster management teams of the Kolkata Police were also deployed to tackle the blaze.
Locals alleged that firefighters reached the spot at least an hour late, because of which the blaze went out of control.
A couple of police vehicles were vandalised, following which a team of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) was deployed to control the irate mob, the officer said.
Traffic movement on the Kshirode Vidyavinode Avenue as well as the Chitpore Lock Gate Bridge, the lifeline of the people living in the northern fringes of the city, was totally stopped, leading to massive traffic snarls in the north and central Kolkata during the evening rush hours.
"We have also snapped electricity supply in the entire area. There are at least 40 families whose houses have been gutted in the fire. A godown of books is also gutted," the police officer said.