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Calcutta market fire rages for 2nd day, destroying 2,500 shops

CALCUTTA, India - A huge fire that has gutted much of a Calcutta market raged for a second day Sunday.

CALCUTTA, India - A huge fire that has gutted much of a Calcutta market raged for a second day Sunday.

Nobody has been killed. But so far the inferno has destroyed the livelihood of some 7,000 people and is sparking fears that it could bring down a 13-storey building.

Officials say the fire began early Saturday, engulfing more than 2,500 makeshift stalls and shops in the famous Burrabazar marketplace - the largest wholesale market in eastern India.

On Sunday, soldiers and firefighters were still trying to extinguish the blaze, which continued to burn on the top floors of a 13-storey building that was part of the market.

Fire Brigade Director Gopal Bhattacharjee said some 160 firefighters, 44 fire trucks and an unspecified number of soldiers were battling the flames.

He said several firefighters have been slightly injured but that there are no other casualties in the blaze.

"The fire continued for such a long time because the market complex was stashed with flammable materials like tarpaulins, plastics, synthetic cloths and wool," Bhattacharjee said.

He added that firefighters had problems accessing water in the area.

Pratim Chatterjee, fire services minister in West Bengal state, told the Press Trust of India new agency that there were concerns that diesel fuel for the generator on the roof of the 13-storey building might explode, bringing down the structure.

"With so much heat generated after the fire, the building may collapse. If it doesn't, we will pull it down later," he said.

B.D. Mimani, head of the market traders' association, estimated damage at $51 million.

"The fire has made the livelihood of at least 7,000 people and their families uncertain," said Mimani, adding that most shop owners were not insured.

"Everything I had was in those shops. They were my future, the future of my family. What will I do now?" said Ganesh Bhagat, who lost his three tarpaulin stores.

Officials said it was not yet clear what started the blaze.

 
 
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