However, there were no casualties in the fire that started from a house at 2 AM on Jamnalal Bajaj Street and soon engulfed nearby buildings and commercial establishments housing cloth and tarpaulin shops in the area, Fire Minister Pratim Chatterjee told PTI.
He said that at least 40 fire tenders were pressed into service. "Though the fire has been contained in the place of origin, the firefighters are battling to douse the flames after almost eleven hours. We don't know how long it would take to bring the fire fully under control."
The Minister said the fire brigade had reached the spot at two o'clock but could not immediately begin the work owing to a power cut in the area and shortage of water supply.
"Our men could finally begin work around 3 AM. If we could begin work from 2 AM, much of the blaze could have been contained by now," he said, adding that since most of the buildings in the area were hoarded with inflammable materials like plastics, clothing materials and tarpaulin, "firemen are facing difficulty in preventing the blaze from spreading".
Stating that "the fire has now spread to the 13-storeyed Nandalal Market", Chatterjee said: "We do not know how many shops are there in the market. Only the owner of the building knows. We will talk to him."
Though the actual cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, the Minister said that a high-level committee would soon be set up to probe the incident. (MORE)
Defence sources said that two fire tenders each from the Army and the Air Force were also sent to the spot following a request from the state government.
Stating that ladders of 52 metre height were being used to fight the blaze, the Fire Services Minister said, that although these were the second highest air ladders in the world, those're only meant for rescue purposes.
Fire Brigade sources as the area did not have any water body or reservoir, water was being pumped in from nearby Mullickghat on the banks of the Hooghly.
The congestion of the roads and lack of proper building plans of the fire engulfed buildings were adding to the problem, Chatterjee claimed.
Police said all buildings in the area have been evacuated as a precautionary measure and the Mahatma Gandhi Road, connecting Howrah station with the Sealdah Terminus, has been closed to traffic. (MORE)