Cassian Baliarsingh

A dozen of firefighters had to battle for over 35-36 hours to extinguish the massive blaze at Laxmi Market Complex that reduced more than 42 shops to ashes in the pilgrim town of Puri.

Even though there have been no reports of any casualties, over 200 people including 150 tourists and 50 people present at the market complex were saved without any injury. The tourists had come to the Holy Town for various reasons and were stationed at Samrat Hotel in the market complex.

The credit for saving all the tourists goes to Hotel Manager Prafull Das. The brave manager managed to save everyone but was himself caught in the blaze. He would not have been alive today, had the firefighters reached the venue on time and rescued him in critical condition.

“I had lost all my hope of being alive. I thought I was going to die,” said the courageous hotel manager in a chat with OTV.

Speaking to OTV, Prafull Das recalled the bone-chilling experience and said, “The first thing I did was cut off power supply. Imagine what would have happened if the power supply was not snapped. Later, I along with three of my staff went from one room to another and rescued all the tourists. There were at least 160 tourists. All I could do was pray to Lord Jagannath and continue to rescue the tourists.”

“Even as everyone was rescued safely, I started suffocating in the smoke and became breathless. Unable to breathe, I ran to the roof of the hotel to get air. I was helpless and could not understand what was happening around me. I gained consciousness after 45 minutes and was later rescued by the firefighters,” Das said.

“I’m working in the hotel sector for the last 40 years and thank Lord Jagannath for saving all the tourists without any casualties. I get goosebumps when I recall the whole incident. I haven’t eaten for three days now,” he added.

Meanwhile, a panel under the chairmanship of Puri Sub-Collector has been formed to ascertain the cause of the massive blaze and assess losses caused by the fire in the market complex.

(Reported by Madhusudan Mishra, OTV)