A huge fire raged through a central market in the east Indian city of Calcutta Saturday, destroying more than 1,000 shops and homes and leaving hundreds homeless but causing no casualties, police and fire officials said.

It was not clear how the blaze began in the early morning in the makeshift stalls and shops in Calcutta's famous wholesale market area of Burrabazar, Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty said.

The blaze that was still raging at midday, Fire Brigade Director Gopal Bhattacharjee said.

Angry residents and shopkeepers protested in the area, saying it took firefighters more than two hours to arrive.

Chakraborty said 42 fire engines were now battling the blaze but they had been delayed initially buy a water shortage in the city.

West Bengal state Fire Minister Pratim Chatterjee charged that traders who had illegally stored flammable articles were responsible for the inferno.