KOLKATA: A fire broke out at on Rashbehari Avenue, one of Kolkata’s landmark single-screen theatres, on Sunday, while the night show of a major Bollywood production was on, triggering panic among viewers and local residents. There was, however, no report of injuries or casualties.

The fire started at the firstfloor office of the cinema around 10.15pm. Within minutes, the whole area was shrouded in smoke. There was a stampede-like situation as the movie-goers panicked and tried to rush out. They were, however, safely evacuated.

Firefighters battle the blaze late on Sunday at Deshapriya Park

Four members of the family that owns the cinema and stays on the top floor of the five-storey building had to wait a while before they could be brought to safety.

The theatre was screening ‘Fanney Khan’ to a sizeable weekend audience in its 9.15pm show when the fire was detected. The building has a lounge bar in its basement, which also had a good weekend crowd. Two eateries on the same floor also had a considerable number of patrons inside. The top two floors house the office and home of Arijit Dutta, the owner.

It is not very clear where the fire was first seen. Fire brigade sources suggested it was spotted between a firstfloor eatery and the box office. Dutta, who spoke to reporters, suggested it could have started from the office. Fire minister and mayor Sovan Chatterjee, who rushed to the spot, said the matter would be thoroughly investigated. Police commissioner Rajiv Kumar was also at the spot.

‘Had to break panes to let smoke out’

Even as the fire brigade tried to control the flames, the theatre’s staff had opened all emergency exits to let out people from inside.

Dipak Pal, a floor staffer, indicated they had initiated the emergency evacuation drill after the fire alarm sounded and the fire brigade had been informed.

Fire brigade officers present at the spot said the blaze could be contained, but the accompanying smoke could have been hazardous. They said they broke the glass panes to let out the smoke. The officers also indicated that no one was hurt during the evacuation.

“There was some panic when we were asked to evacuate through the emergency exits. We followed instructions and came out safely. While we were being led away by the staffers, we could smell heavy smoke. We are grateful to have been escorted out of the hall so quickly,” said a south Kolkata resident.

“The whole area was covered in smoke. People were running out of the gate. We were inside the resto-bar in the basement when somebody screamed that there was a fire upstairs and asked us to run out,” said Papiya Basu, who had come to spend Sunday evening at Priya.

Traffic around Deshapriya Park was disrupted for a while because of the incident.
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