Aurangabad (Maharashtra): A major fire broke out in a temporary firecrackers market in this Maharashtra city on Saturday morning, destroying over 200 big and small shops and over 50 vehicles, officials said.
Barring minor burns to a dozen persons, no casualties were initiallu reported in the incident as almost shopkeepers and customers managed to escape to safety. However, several hours later, at least two persons are reported missing and efforts are on to trace them, officials said.
At least a dozen four-wheelers, around 10 three-wheelers (autorickshaws) and more than two dozen two-wheelers parked in the vicinity were engulfed in the blaze and destroyed.
The blaze occurred in the Aurangpura annual Diwali firecrackers market at the Zilla Parishad ground, due to a suspected short circuit in a couple of stalls in the centre, as per preliminary investigations, said officials.
With loud booming sounds, rockets taking off in all directions and other fireworks getting lit, the fire quickly spread and engulfed the entire market where the stalls were erected close to each other.
Eyewitnesses said thick black, toxic smoke billowed in the skies which could be seen several kms away while the panicky shopkeepers and customers ran helter-skelter to safety.
Hundreds of scared people living in the vicinity of the ground ran out of their homes to safety even as firemen battled the blaze.
Locals estimate the losses to firecrackers stocks and other materials in excess of several crores of rupees.
Shiv Sena MP from Aurangabad Chandrakant Khaire, who visited the site, announced that compensation would be paid to the traders who sustained losses.
Aurangabad in Marathwada region is world-renowned for its UNESCO heritage sites like Ajanta and Ellora cave temples and other historic buildings like the Bibi Ka Maqbara, which is termed a mini-Taj Mahal and other tourist spots.