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Multicrore loss in Delhi container depot fire.

HANDICRAFT products worth over Rs 60 crore were reduced to ashes in a fire at the Inland Container Depot ( ICD) in Tughlakabad on Saturday. There were no casualties.

The fire broke out around 5.45 am in an exports warehouse and quickly spread to the cargo that had been stored there for completion of customs formalities.

Thirty fire tenders took about three hours to douse the blaze.

Custom House Agents ( CHAs) working at the ICD had complained about dangerous working conditions in the area a month ago.

" We received a complaint from the CHA employees' association recently. Serious allegations have been levelled against the Container Corporation ( which operates inland transport services, clearance, and cargo handling facilities) about its management and anti- labour policy.

It has turned the ICD, Asia's largest dry port, into a death trap," A. K. Banerjee, a retired customs official, said.

The employees' association said over 150 labourers and staff had died on duty at the port in the last 10 years. They alleged there were no proper fire- fighting equipment at the depot.

The ICD is also said to be always over- congested, with more than 400 containers of goods stored there against the capacity of 200.

The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts has demanded that the Container Corporation pay for the losses incurred by the exporters. The council claims that besides handicrafts, other goods were also damaged in the fire.

The blaze destroyed 24 of the 25 warehouses that usually store goods meant for exports.

" The flames spread rapidly. By the time we reached, a portion of the roof had collapsed," a fire department official said.

The incident led to a huge traffic jam on the road linking Mehrauli and Badarpur.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Apr 11, 2010
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