At least 40 shops, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) Camp office, a residential structure, 3 government buildings including a dispensary, animal husbandry and agriculture office went up in flames at main market Bhatyas in Bhalessa area of district Doda early on Wednesday. Property worth millions was reduced to ashes. However, no casualty has been reported.
The fire, according to reports, broke out around mid night Wednesday at the main market at Bhatyas, 16 kms from the Gandoh. The devastating flames consumed shops, residential structures, government buildings mostly made of dry Cedar wood.
"We informed the fire tenders at Thathri and Gandoh simultaneously as Bhatyas market is at equidistant from both the stations. The fire fighting operation commenced around 12.30 a.m with the help of police and the locals," said SDPO Gandoh Sunny Gupta.
He said the fire was brought under control after three hours at 5.30 a.m. "But by then 45 structures got completely damaged," he said.
"Fortunately there was no loss of life. Police have started investigation into the incident. This being third major fire in as many months; foul play also could not be ruled out," he added.
The locals see a "deep rooted conspiracy" behind the incident. They have demanded a high level enquiry. Pertinent to mention that on April 15, 26 Shops and 8 residential houses were gutted in similar midnight blaze in Gandoh market. And, on February 10, 4 shops, 2 residential houses and a car was damaged in another midnight fire at Malikpura, Gandoh.
Former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Deputy Chief Minister, JKPCC Chief GA Mir have expressed grief over the loss of property in Bhatyas. They have sought compensation for the victims.