The exit to the roof of the building (that was safe from the fire till the end) was locked. There was no spiral staircase on the outside of the building to help escape the inferno. Grills on windows prevented people from being rescued.
The fire department didn’t arrive with the hydraulic ladders for about an hour and did not use fire cushions that could have broken the fall of people jumping off the building to escape the fire. Why? Because they had some payment issues with the private company who supplied them the fire cushions due to which the company hadn’t given them a demonstration on how to use the cushions!!
The floors that caught fire were constructed illegally and the KMC, instead of preventing its construction, accepted money as penalty and let the builders carry on with the construction.
The fire claimed 25 people, several are missing and many others are battling for their lives in hospital. A helpless crowd watched people jump off the building to escape getting charred to death, but dying anyway. Common people that you and I would encounter lolling on the sidewalk tried to break their fall with bed sheets while the fire department, whose job description incidentally entails responding to emergency situations promptly & with urgency, took their own sweet time to arrive (one hour??) and came unprepared.
And as is typical to our country, the administration has “reacted” to the incident. The Fire Minister has admitting to having learnt a lesson - that hydraulic stairs & fire engines should be kept in Esplanade, the central business district of Calcutta, rather than the deep South Behala and the far flung Salt Lake. And that the fire department will now be inspecting all heritage structures for compliance to fire safety regulations.
Unlike a lot of people who have grown up in Calcutta, I have no such Park Street memories. But watching people jump to death, a thud and a piercing scream as they hit the ground and blood starts oozing out from all body parts, can wrench anyone’s heart.
It’s unbelievable how time and again we don’t fail to demonstrate that we are such a failed state.