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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Historic Calcutta market burnt down
Fire rages in Calcutta market
Fire has destroyed several Calcutta landmarks
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By Sanjoy Majumder
News online correspondent in Delhi

One of the oldest markets in the Indian city of Calcutta has been completely destroyed in a devastating fire.

More than 300 shops were destroyed in the century old Firpo's Market in the fire, one of the worst in recent years.

The fire broke out late on Tuesday night and spread through the whole market, burning garment, toy and electronic stores.

An automobile showroom was also destroyed but two movie theatres in the vicinity of the market barely escaped the fire.

Patrons watching a late show of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone rushed out of the New Empire theatre to witness the flames licking Firpo's Market.

Angry residents

At least 75 fire engines fought the blaze for eight hours before it was brought under control.

Local residents complained that fire-fighters were too poorly equipped to handle such a large fire.

Angry residents demonstrated against the local fire services minister, Pratim Chatterji, when he turned up to supervise the fire fighting operations.

The damage to property is expected to run into millions of rupees although a final estimate is not likely for some time.

Firpo's Market, in Calcutta's central business district, dates back to the British colonial era and was a city landmark.

An elegant two-storey building, it had been an elite hotel until it was transformed into a market in the 1950s.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta says at least five such fires have destroyed property in Calcutta in the past few years, including some heritage buildings.

Last year, the historic Rangmahal Hall, one of the city's oldest theatres, was destroyed in a fire.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | South Asia
Thousands homeless after Bombay fire
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
Indian army fire 'may be sabotage'
07 Aug 01 | South Asia
Chaining ban after India asylum fire
24 Apr 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
06 Aug 01 | South Asia
Police probe India asylum blaze
15 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Calcutta's revival
05 May 00 | South Asia
Thirteen die in fire in India
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