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Kolkata hospital fire claims 89 lives

Sorab chakraborty
Agence India Press

Kolkata: Nearly 90 people have been killed in a fire that engulfed patients at a hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, with officials accusing senior staff of abandoning those in their care.
The fire broke out around 3.00am on Thursday at AMRI hospital when the vast majority of the 160 patients inside the privately-run, five-storey facility were asleep.
Kolkata Joint Police Commissioner Damayanti Sen told reporters that 89 people had been confirmed dead.
Initial investigations suggested the blaze had started in the basement, and most of the victims were patients who suffocated on the thick, acrid smoke that quickly filled the wards on the floors above.
By 9.00am, the blaze had largely been brought under control, but smoke continued to billow from shattered windows for hours, as firemen struggled to reach those still trapped inside.
Six owners of AMRI Hospital in south Kolkata’s Dhakuria were arrested on Friday following the massive fire in which at least 89 people have been killed. The six who have been arrested are SK Todi, RS Goenka, Ravi Todi, Manish Goenka, Prasanta Goenka and Dayananda Agarwal, and the licence of the hospital has been cancelled.

A senior Kolkata Police officer said that the six have been charged with negligence, culpable homicide not amounting to murder and attempt to culpable homicide.

Senior police officials revealed that the hospital was issued a warning in July about inadequate fire safety mechanism.

Joint CP Crime, Kolkata Damayanti Sen said, “Six directors of AMRI Hospital charged under section 308 (Attempt to commit culpable homicide), 285 (Negligent conduct with respect to Fire), 115 (Abettment of an offence), 34 (Common intent), 112 (Abettor when liable to cumulative punishment for act abetted & act done) of IPC. A Case has been registered under 11-C OF West Bengal Fire Act against AMRI Hospital. Arrest of the 6 directors of AMRI done over FIR which was filed by Fire services Department.”

Sen added, “Hospital filed an affidavit in July stating that they will comply instructions within two months. Fire services department got the information late from Lal Bazaar Police Control Room around 4:08 am.”

All the six directors had earlier in the day surrendered before the Kolkata police at Lal Bazar Police Headquarters following the tragedy, which is perhaps the worst hospital disaster in the country.
The devastating fire which claimed the lives of 70 patients and three hospital employees reportedly started at the basement of AMRI Hospital at around 3:30 am on Friday and most of the victims died due to suffocation.
Fifty nine of the patients rescued are now admitted at different hospitals.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation and also ordered an FIR against the hospital authorities.

The angry relatives of the patients who died alleged that the hospital staff abandoned patients and did not help them rush out. They said that this resulted in suffocation, and therefore, deaths of the patients.

The relatives alleged there was little help from hospital staff and security personnel when the patients were gasping for breath in their beds.

The hospital announced that the family of those who have died will be paid Rs 5 lakh as compensation. Reports said many bodies were moved to SSKM hospital. The identification of bodies was on but sources said some of the bodies may not be identified as they were charred.

Meanwhile, Lok Sabha on Friday mourned the deaths in a hospital fire in Kolkata.
“I am sure the House would join me in empathising in this hour of grief with the members of the families, who became victims of this unfortunate incident,” Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said in the House.
Members stood in silence for a short while as a mark of respect to the memory of the departed. At least 70 patients suffocated to death when a massive fire broke in the seven-storey private AMRI Hospital at Dhakuria in south Kolkata early on Friday morning.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also expressed shock and anguishes over the loss of life in the tragedy and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families of those, who lost their lives in the fire. He announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 each of those grievously injured.
The Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad have also expressed his heartfelt condolence at the death of victims in the tragic fire at AMRI Hospital, the superspeciality private hospital in Kolkata. (AIP News)

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