A case study
Kolkata has been nicknamed the City of Palaces. This comes from the numerous palatial mansions built all over the city. Some of the major buildings of this period are well maintained and several buildings have been declared as heritage structures. Today, many of these structures are in various stages of decay. Conservation efforts are patchy and are often affected by problems of litigation, tenant troubles, ownership disputes, old tenancy laws and a lack of funds. On March 23 2010, a devastating fire broke out in a 150-year-old building on the iconic Park Street in Kolkata. Stephen Court, the landmark seven-storey building, housed the legendary confectioners Flury’s, restaurant Peter Cat, Music World store, the offices of Jet Airways and Power Max, among others. It also housed residences. A major part of the building was destroyed.
The fire, which was caused by an electrical short circuit started around 2.30 pm in one of the elevators on the upper floors and spread swiftly. Soon, flames Started leaping out of almost every window. The wooden staircase of the building was destroyed and parts of the building crumbled. About 300 firemen fought the blaze with 45 fire tenders and ladders. At least 25 people died and numerous injured as the fire broke out. The fire swept through a large a portion of the top two floors of the Stephen Court building, which houses mainly call centers and residences. This was the third major fire in Kolkata in two years and the second in a metropolitan city. A fire in a multi-storeyed office complex in Bangalore killed nine people on Feb 23.
With the fire snapping at their heels, office workers and residents were driven to jump out of windows. Firemen used hydraulic ladders to rescue people, including a 90-year-old man. Onlookers complained that the fire engines arrived an hour late...