DARJEELING, April 20: A total of 21 buildings that housed around 150 shops were burnt to ashes on Thursday midnight when a massive fire broke out in downtown Darjeeling.
As the fire broke out in the midnight, local people were unaware of the incident for quite some time. By the time the locals knew about the incident, a couple of shops had already been gutted in fire.
“I knew about the fire one hour later,” said Ram Thapa, one of fire victims, adding, “My clothes shop had already burnt when I reached there at around 3 on Friday morning.”
The fire that started from a house at HD Lama Road, which is situated in the centre of Darjeeling, spread rapidly after a gas cylinder explosion. Luckily, there was no casualty as most of shop owners were living elsewhere in the night.
The locals, police and army men extinguished the fire only at nine on Friday morning. Fire brigades from Kalimpong and Kurseong had been mobilized to bring the fire under control. The scarcity of water facing Darjeeling also added to the difficulty of security men and locals in bringing the fire under control.
The police have yet not calculated the loss caused by the fire. However, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), one of most influential regional political parties of Darjeeling, has claimed that the fire destroyed property worth IRs 50 million.
Those who lost their houses and have no place to live have been taken to the All India Women Centre building, according to Bimal Rai, a local resident.
Police and volunteers have started cleaning the road where the fire broke out. India´s town development minister Gautam Dev visited the area wrecked by fire on Friday evening.
Jaswant Singh, who was elected to Indian parliament from Darjeeling constituency, has announced to provide IRs 50,000 to the fire victims.