Kolkata: A month after fire engulfed the AMRI hospital and claimed 94 lives, the families of the victims are yet to come to terms with the loss. Some of them are still struggling to arrange two square meals a day after having lost their sole bread earners.

In the worst hospital fire tragedy in India, mostly patients and staffers were choked to death from toxic fumes when a blaze started in the basement of the annexe building of the super-speciality health facility in south Kolkata Dec 9 and quickly spread, trapping hundreds of people.

Many of the families are now reeling under the burden of the huge loans they had taken for the treatment.

“I don't know how I will run the family. My sons are studying in Class 10 and Class 2. I have to repay a huge loan of Rs.3 lakh which I had taken for my husband's treatment,” said Jaya Ghosh, whose husband Swapan Krishna Bose - the sole breadwinner of the family - perished in the fire.

Ghosh now works as a casual Group D staff in the same college where her husband worked as a permanent Group D employee. But with a monthly salary of just Rs.5,000, things are really tough for the 36-year-old.

Sushanta Sarkar, who lost his only brother Kashinath Sarkar to the fire, has to pay back a loan of more than Rs.4 lakh which he had taken along with his sister-in-law by mortgaging his house and land for his brother's treatment.

“We had thought that after he got well, he will repay the loan from his business profits. Now after his death, the business has totally collapsed,” said Sarkar.

Although 29 families have received the state government's compensation of Rs.3 lakh, rest of them is yet to get it, mostly due to bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Ujjal Kumar Singh of Bihar, who lost his father Subodh Prosad Singh in the tragedy, is currently carrying a burden of more than Rs.4 lakh to repay.

“I am yet to get the compensation of the state government. But I along with my two younger brothers have decided not to take the compensation from AMRI as it is they who are responsible for my father's death,” said Singh.

The hospital authorities have announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakh for the victims' kin.

According to AMRI sources, the two hospital nurses who died while saving the patients have received compensation from the hospital.

For some others, the emotional wounds are too deep to be healed.

“I have lost my daughter, I have lost everything. Had the security guards allowed me to rescue my child, she would have been alive today. The culprits should be given exemplary punishment,' said Dhanonjoy Paul, whose 15-year-old daughter Prakita Pal perished in the fire.

Six directors of the hospital were arrested on the day of the fire, and are currently in judicial custody.

But what seems to have fuelled the anger of the grieving families is a statement from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which sought immediate release of the directors who were not responsible for the day to day operations.

However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the law would take its own course in the case.

“What do these business bodies think? Do they think that our lives have no value? Only those who have money have the right to live?” asked Samarendranath Mullick, son of Sasadhar Mullick, an 88-year old victim.

FICCI's secretary general Rajeev Kumar declined to comment on the issue, saying the matter was sub-judice.

With the victims' families spewing venom against the hospital, Shankar Maity, a local who single handedly saved several patients on Dec 9 by risking his life, wants the AMRI Hospital to be operational again.

“I want the directors to be punished severely, but at the same time I also want the hospital to be operational as early as possible because the locals of the area now have to run to far off hospitals for treatment,” said Maity.

(Agencies)