Hearth at upscale highrise claims aged resident

KOLKATA: A sexagenarian who had fled a fire in his flat walked back into it and died while trying to save important documents that he feared would go up in flames. The macabre death played out at upscale on on Tuesday evening shortly before a killer storm struck the city.
The fire in flat 44 D in the east wing of Apartments broke out sometime after 7pm. According to residents, a blast shook the building and triggered panic. Many hurriedly left their flast and exited the building to safety. Among them was 61-year-old Swapan , owner of the fourth floor apartment.

“Bhattacharjee was among the first to arrive. He was clad in a gamcha and was visibly shaken. He told us the gas cylinder in his kitchen had exploded and ignited a fire. He then turned around to retrieve some important documents that were in the flat,” recounted a caretaker of the building.

Guards employed by the building association said they had tried to dissuade Bhattacharjee from heading back into the building but he had brushed their objections aside.

Even as Bhattacharjee was heading into the fire, other flat owners were rushing out to safety. That was the last Bhattcharjee was seen. According to firemen who retrieved his body, Bhattacharjee had walked in and then got trapped as the fire spread rapidly around him. He was taken to SSKM with burn injuries where he was declared dead.

Neighbours said Bhattacharjee stayed alone. They said they had heard the blast around 7.15pm and rushed out in panic, never realising that Bhattacharjee had done so and returned to his flat again. A forensic investigation will reveal the exact cause of the fire, an officer said.

The fire brigade had received the fire call around 7.15pm, less than half hour before the monster storm struck the city. The strong winds made it difficult for fire fighters to control the blaze that often threatened to spread to other apartments and even the adjoining tower.

Nikita Sethi, a resident of C block, was at home with her two children both of whom are below the age of 10 years. “It was a nightmare. It felt as if the entire building will collapse the way wind was lashing against it. My children started crying and I did not know what to do. When I could not bear it anymore I rushed down with my children and my two mobile phones,” said Sethi.

Several senior citizens who stay inside the complex faced several problems coming down the stairs. “I helped my elderly parents come down one by one. Both of them are above 70 years of age and can hardly walk but I had no option but to bring them down because at one point it felt that the building might collapse,” said Vipin Rathi, a resident of the D block.

With the power switched off following the fire, many residents who had rushed down were unable to return to their apartments and braved it out at the lobby and basement through the storm. Long after the storm, many children were seen weeping with parents trying to console them while the elderly sat helplessly, wondering how they would return to their apartments.

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