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Day after, 'Killer' Kolkata hospital turns into ghost house

Saturday December 10, 2011 12:26:44 PM, IANS

Kolkata: A day after India saw its worst hospital fire, the AMRI Hospital Annexe 1 building Saturday stood like a ghost building with pieces of glasspanes and stone slaps strewn all around, soot and blood stained floors, the smell of death and smoke still in the air and fire brigade personnel on guard -- a grim reminder of the holocaust.

The two other blocks, which usually bustle with patients, doctors, and their relatives and were untouched by the deadly fire, sported a deserted look with most of those admitted having been shifted elsewhere by their family members.

The devastating fire that broke out early Friday in the well-known hospital in South Kolkata's middle class Dhakuria neighbourhood killed 90 and injured over 50. The injured, many of them battling for life, were moved to other city hospitals.

Meanwhile, of the 87 bodies that were taken to the morgue of the state-run SSKM hospital, about six km from the hospital, 85 have been identified and will be handed over to their grief-stricken relatives.

The body of 65-year old Bangladesh resident Gouranga Mandal, who was in the ICU of the block, was to be flown home Saturday afternoon. "We have been paid the plane fare and Rs.10,000. The West Bengal government has also taken care to embalm my grandfather's body," Mandal's grandson Rakkhit Roy told IANS on phone from the NSC Bose International Airport.

The state government has already sealed and cancelled the licence of the Annexe 1 block of the hospital - co-founded by the private Emami & Shrachi Groups along with the West Bengal government in 1996.

Seven of the hospital directors, including Shrachi Group chairman S.K. Todi and his counterpart in the Emami Group R.S. Goenka, arrested on non-bailable offences including attempt to commit culpable homicide and negligence causing a fire, will be produced in the Alipore Court Saturday.

One of the seven directors, R.S. Agarwal got himself admitted at a private hospital Friday evening and has been kept under arrest there.

The forensic experts are slated to visit the spot of the tragedy later in the day to collect samples to determine the cause of the fire, amidst allegation that the basement where the flames originated was stacked with excessively combustible materials. The hospital, has, however denied the charge.

The pre-dawn fire broke out at 3.30 a.m. Friday in the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI), catching many in their sleep. While most nurses, doctors and other staffers were able to get away, many critically ill patients suffocated to death in their hospital beds.

The tragedy unfolded over many hours. Some were suffocated, some were too infirm to escape the toxic fumes. The lucky few were brought down the side of the four-storey glass facade building using ropes and ladders, even as thousands watched in horror.

The fire brigade, many alleged, came over two hours late. The fire brigade blamed it on narrow lanes leading to the hospital.







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