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20 dead in market fire

People gather on the street adjacent to the illegal market where the deadly fire occurred.

People gather on the street adjacent to the illegal market where the deadly fire occurred.

CALCUTTA — At least 20 people have been killed in a fire that swept through an illegal market in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, police officials say.

The Surya Sen Market was housed in an old multi-storey building in the crowded Sealdah area of the city.

Several people were also seriously injured, and officials say the death toll could rise.

The deadly blaze was contained in three hours and it is thought there is no one left trapped inside.

The fire in the paper and plastic market broke out early this morning while some people were sleeping inside the complex.

The head of the fire services Gopal Bhattacharya told AFP news agency that they “found dozens of people lying unconscious with severe burns” and that most of the victims had suffocated in their sleep.

Toxic gases were also released from the flammable materials present in the building, which hampered the rescue operations.

State Fire Services Minister Javed Khan told AFP: “The market has only one exit point and those who stayed in the market at night were trapped after the fire broke out.”

Khan also said the market was illegal and action would be taken “against the authorities for not having any fire safety arrangement”.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, visiting the scene, promised a full investigation. (BBC)

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