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Kolkata Fire: AMRI directors grilled, toll now 93

Monday December 12, 2011 08:17:03 AM, IANS

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Kolkata: Police Sunday grilled the six arrested AMRI hospital directors as the death toll in Friday's fire at the high-cost medical facility in south Kolkata went up to 93. Protests against the hospital authorities and candlelight vigils for the dead continued for the second day.

Advanced Medicare & Research Institute (AMRI) directors, including Shrachi Group chairman S.K. Todi and his counterpart in the Emami Group R.S. Goenka, charged with culpable homicide and now lodged in the Lalbazar police lock up after their arrest Friday, were being interrogated through the day to ascertain the "lapses" and "irregularities" in the hospital, said a police officer.

A lower court Saturday remanded the directors to police custody for ten days. Apart from them, another director R.S. Agarwal is now admitted to a private hospital, where he is placed under arrest.

Two patients - a police constable and a female patient - who were evacuated to two different hospitals after the fire tragedy, died Sunday. The death count was now 93, comprising 91 patients and two nurses.

There was tension Sunday at the hospital's desolate Annexe 1 block, where the blaze early Friday had choked to death mostly infirm patients - many of them in their sleep - and two nurses, as fumes again billowed out from the basement, said to be the source of the killer fire.

"Such an occurring is normal in case of major fires. We were informed about the smoke coming out and sent an engine which doused the flames," said a fireman.

Forensic experts sent to the spot to collect samples, could not do their work as the basement was flooded. They will again go to the hospital Monday, a source said.

The main building of the hospital was still functioning, though most of the patients have been transferred to other city healthcare centres.

Meanwhile, the people's anger continued to rise with protestors putting up posters in the hospital premises demanding exemplary punishment for its officials.

Local residents also demanded that a playground "snatched forcibly" for a park maintained by the medical facility adjacent to the AMRI hospital be returned.

"The hospital, using police force, snatched the land. We want back this land which was a playground for us," read some posters put up by some residents of Panchanantala in South Kolkata's Dhakuria where the hospital is located.

An AMRI spokesman, however, said the land belonged to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. "We don't own the land. We have just beautified it and we maintain it round the year. So if they want back the land they should talk to the civic body."

Several political parties, including the Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist (SUCI-C), pasted posters on the hospital walls demanding exemplary punishment for the wrongdoers along with scrapping the private-public partnership (PPP) model hospitals.

People from all walks of life including film personalities took out a candlelight march to pay tribute to the victims.

Hundreds of men, women and children marched silently holding candles in their hand marched from near the hospital to the nearby Golpark Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would participate in a peace march Monday starting from the M.P. Birla planetarium which will culminate at the Gandhi statute in the Maidan area.

Banerjee has also appealed to the people at large to join in the march in memory of the victims.

The pre-dawn blaze at 3.30 a.m. in the hospital -- co-founded by the Emami and Shrachi Groups along with the state government in 1996 - led to the death of critically ill patients, while most nurses, doctors and other staffers were able to get away.









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