GUWAHATI, Nov 12 - A sense of shock and utter disbelief continues to grip the traders and residents of Fancy Bazar even as firefighters struggled to contain the flames that first erupted last night at around 8.45 pm.
Smoke was billowing from various affected spots till late afternoon today with the narrow lanes and firefighting resources adding to the misery of the affected traders and households.
Immediate rebuilding and rehabilitation of the commercial hub would be a daunting task, believes the affected ones. Shocked at the disaster that struck on the day of Diwali, most traders in Fancy Bazar observed a shut down.
This, despite the fact that more than 100 personnel were pressed into service by various agencies, including the State Fire Service Organisation (SFSO), NDRF, SDRF, Guwahati Police, APDCL and paramilitary forces.
SFSO sources informed that more than 100 fire tenders were pressed into service since the last 18 hours, but the haphazard construction of buildings and other structures posed serious difficulties to reach out to each and every spot. �The entire Fancy Bazar is so congested that even with the best of equipment, it would not be possible to douse the fire immediately,� said a fire fighter busy in the operation.
Sources claimed that fire first emanated from a cottoncum-garment shop and in no time the entire New Market (old portion) was engulfed.
�In less than an hour, the fire spread to most of the adjoining commercial buildings and residences,� said Sankar Sarkar, who works for a garment outlet at Shoppers Point. New Market has been reduced to ashes. A number of other commercial buildings, including the New Market (new portion) stood partially affected.
The Purvottor Marwari Sanmilan in its memorandum to the Chief Minister demanded rehabilitation of all the affected traders, irrespective of any bias.
�The petty traders should also be rehabilitated immediately and if possible arrangements for loan should also be made by the Government. It is about the survival of nearly hundred families who are directly or indirectly affected by the inferno,� said Pramod Tiwari and Madhusudan Sikaria of the Purvottor Marwari Sanmilan.
�They said that the inferno has completely exposed the existing firefighting mechanism as even after more than 18 hours, the inferno could not be contained completely,� they said, demanding that the reconstruction should be allowed as per the old building byelaws.
�If the new building bye-law is followed, most of the petty traders would lose their workplace. We do not want the issue to be politicalised,� they said.
Social worker Bikash Gupta and a local resident said that the Government must make some makeshift arrangements for the petty traders and if possible provision for aid should also be introduced.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today visited the spot and took stock of the situation. Gogoi said that a highlevel inquiry will be conducted to ascertain the cause and circumstances leading to the inferno.
Earlier, political leaders from the Congress, AGP and the BJP also visited the spot.
The district administration has in the meantime, ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. The inquiry will be conducted by Deepak Kumar Choudhury, ADC, who will be assisted by L Saharia, Circle officer. The report will have to be submitted within 15 days.