Fire at illegal market in India kills at least 19

KOLKATA, India — A fire broke out at an illegal six-story plastics market in the Indian city of Kolkata early Wednesday, killing at least 19 people, police said.

The blaze, which started before 4 a.m., was probably caused by a short circuit, said West Bengal’s fire minister, Javed Khan. The fire was under control by mid-morning, he said, but toxic gases being released by the blaze were hampering rescue efforts.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said at least 19 people had died. He said police were looking for the owner of the building, which was filled with dozens of small shops selling various plastic products.


Another 10 people were hospitalized in critical condition, and the death toll was expected to rise, Khan said.

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He called the scene of the fire ‘‘an illegal, unauthorized market.’’

However, local residents said the market had been operating in the building for nearly 40 years.

The building housed several warehouses on its upper floors, where chemicals, paper, and plastics were stored.