On March 22nd, 2010, a fire occurred in the Stephen Court, located in the heart of the Calcutta, which houses the 100-year-old Flury’s confectionery house, a large music store called Music World and several other offices.
The death toll is 24 persons. Twenty people were injured in the blaze that swept through the upper floors of the eight-storied building. Stephen Court houses the popular Peter Cat restaurant and is close to the iconic Flurys confectionery and tea room.
The main victims of the fire were young professionals working in call centres and other private offices in the heritage building.
Witnesses said that, if the key to a locked collapsible gate leading to the terrace of Stephen Court was not missing, many lives could have been saved. At least 18 people were found lying dead on the staircase leading to the roof top.
When the fire broke out in the eight-storey building, people on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors of the heritage building rushed towards the terrace to escape death.After trying in vain to open the gate, the panic-stricken victims again started rushing down the stairs, but could not get far as the leaping fire below devoured them. The fire broke out at 2:15pm, but there was confusion on which floor of the six-storey building it broke out with panic gripping those trapped inside. Probably, the fire broke out in a lift shaft and spread. People must have attempted to escape by trying to climb on the roof of the building, but the door to the terrace was locked and so they were trapped.
The blaze could not be brought under control till 8pm. Thick smoke and flames engulfed the building as some of the people trapped in the building came out on ledges driven by the flames inside.
Some days after, two caretakers of the historic buildinghave been arrested. The caretakers have been held for not ensuring the safety of the building. The owner of the 100-year-old Stephen Court building has been accused of not observing fire regulations, but local residents accused the fire services of taking nearly an hour to arrive at the scene.
Nearly 100 fire-fighters and 25 fire engines spent several hours struggling to control the blaze.