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Stephen court toll mounts to 42
Kolkata, Mar 29 (IANS):
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Published on 30 Mar. 2010 1:24 AM IST
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Eight more bodies were recovered from the debris of Stephen Court Monday taking the toll to 42 in the March 23 blaze even as the West Bengal government formed a 11-member probe panel to find the cause of the tragedy. According to police, two bodies were identified with the help of identity cards found with the corpses. Those identified are Bidyut Acharya, 22, an employee of call centre firm Wiltech Computers, and Sangeeta Kumari. Seven people are still missing.
The charred bodies recovered Monday were all found on the fifth floor of the fire ravaged building, where civic workers and firemen are working 24x7 to clear the rubble amidst an unbearably foul smell and dirt.
“Two of the bodies were found in the wee hours. Another was found in the morning. Five bodies were later discovered in the afternoon,” Joint Commissioner of Police Jawed Shamim told IANS.
He said the corpses have been handed over to the state-run SSKM hospital for identification by the families of the victims, who have been on a round-the-clock vigil at the hospital premises for the past six days with the hope of seeing their near and dear ones - dead if not alive.
The probe panel set up by the government will be led by former home secretary Sourin Roy and will include former state director general of police Dinesh Vajpai. Union finance minister and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee demanded setting up of a probe panel to unearth the reasons for the fire.
“A probe is needed. It should look into why the mishap occurred, whether proper safety measures had been taken,” Mukherjee, who is also the state Congress president, said.
Going a step further, main opposition Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee pressed for a time-bound judicial inquiry under a serving judge.
“And if they cannot do it, then they should seek a CBI probe. And mind you, the CBI probe should be impartial,” she said, after walking in a two kilometre procession from Birla Planetarium to Stephen Court alongside families of the victims and those missing.
Leaping flames engulfed the upper floors of the iconic building on Park Street last Tuesday. Only 22 of the bodies have been identified beyond any doubt so far. Several bodies have multiple claimants. DNA tests are being conducted to identify the disputed bodies and those that are completely unrecognisable.
Six people died after jumping from the top floors in a desperate bid to save themselves from the fire. Thirty six other charred bodies have been found till Monday afternoon. Built by Armenian Stephen Arathoon in 1910, Stephen Court also housed the iconic Flurys tea room, the famous eatery Peter Cat, besides Cafe Coffee Day and One Step Up restaurant.
11-member committee to probe Stephen Court fire
About a week after the killer fire at Kolkata’s iconic Stephen Court, the West Bengal government Monday formed an 11-member probe panel to look into all aspects of the tragedy and fix responsibility for any negligence on the part of state agencies, landlord or tenants.
“To investigate various aspects of the devastating fire, an 11-member enquiry committee has been formed, which will submit a report within three months after examining all sides,” Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty told reporters at the state secretariat Writers’ Buildings on a day bodies continued to be unearthed from the debris taking the toll in the March 23 inferno to 43.
The committee will be headed by former home secretary Sourin Roy and include ex-director general of state police Dinesh Vajpai, secretaries of municipal affairs, legal, civil defence and power departments besides the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) municipal commissioner, fire services director general and a civil or electrical engineering professor of Jadavpur University.

 
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