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Blazes, blames, but no change in Dhaka

Staff Reporter:

Dhaka has already become one of the least liveable cities in the world due to a number of reasons, and recurring fire incidents are not improving its appeal. Residents of the capital city still shudder remembering the Nimtoli tragedy in 2010 followed by the fire incidents in Churihatta and Banani FR Tower in 2019.

The fire at Green Cozy Cottage on Bailey Road on Thursday night was the latest of these incidents, but people did not know if it was the last, because they could not understand to whom they could turn to ensure that such an easily preventable disaster does not repeat.

The death toll in the Bailey Road fire reached 46 as of filing this report at 8:30pm on Friday. It took 13 Fire Service units two hours to douse the blaze that heavily damaged the commercial building.

According to the information from the Fire Service, 77 fire incidents are reported across the country on average. Besides, the number of blazes reported in a year has been rising over the last four years.

Four devastating fires killed 267 people in the capital in the last 14 years. Aside from the major incidents, fires break out frequently across the country, ruining lives and assets. Following the accidents, inquiry committees are formed and the damaged buildings are sealed, but a fire erupts in a different place, often due to a lack of preventive measures, said experts.

Asked about the causes of fire and preventive measures, architect and designer Iqbal Habib told that the risk of casualties is high in a densely populated area. The risk of fire will not decrease if detailed plans for fire safety are not incorporated into the building construction plans.

In addition to that, regular supervision of buildings across the country, including the capital, is also essential to ensure that all the establishments have the necessary arrangements for preventing fires, he added.

At the same time, the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives, and the Fire Service have to jointly create a task force to ensure that every building complies with the laws related to fire safety and close down the structures that do not follow the rules, he added.

Urban planning experts said those who issue clearances for building construction, especially the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and the Fire Service, should take responsibility for fire prevention. If they neglect their duties or get involved in corruption they should be punished. Until they can be held directly accountable, such accidents will continue to happen.

Fire incidents rising

Statistics show that fire incidents in the country were in a rising trend in the last four years.

Of the fire incidents, 27,624 occurred in 2023, 24,102 in 2022, 21,601 in 2021 and 21,073 in 2020.

At least 573 people were killed and 1,650 injured in 94,400 fire incidents across the country from 2020 to 2023, according to the statistics of Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD).

Of the deaths, 102 occurred in 2023, 98 in 2022, 219 in 2021 and 154 in 2020.

About 281 people were wounded in 2023, 407 in 2022, 576 in 2021 and 386 in 2020 in fires.

On 13 June 2010, a devastating fire broke out in the Nimtoli area of Old Dhaka due to a transformer explosion.

According to the government, 117 people died in the blaze that lasted for three hours. A woman and a child died later. The fire took a terrible form due to the chemical warehouses located in the area. Despite the best efforts of the authorities concerned, the chemical warehouses could not be completely removed from there.

On 24 November 2012, at least 112 workers were burnt to death in a terrible fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia, Savar. About 200 workers were injured in the incident.

On 20 February 2019, a fire claimed the lives of 78 people at Churihatta in the Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka. Later, an investigation committee of the Ministry of Industries said that a gas cylinder explosion caused the fire. Risky gas cylinders are still in use in different vehicles and establishments.

On 15 March 2017, a fire broke out in a Karail slum in Mohakhali, Dhaka. Earlier, on 5 October 2016, around 50 houses were gutted by fire in Boubazar slum near Shikdar Medical College Hospital adjacent to Hazaribagh embankment. Apart from this, 11 people lost their lives in a fire in the same slum on 19 November 2018. On 12 March of the same year, a fire broke out in Ilyas Ali Molla Slum in Pallabi area of the capital. About 5,000 houses in the slum were burnt down in the fire.

On 3 January 2017, a part of the second floor of the DCC Market at Gulshan-1 in the capital collapsed due to a terrible fire.

On 28 March 2019, at least 26 people died in the fire at FR tower in Banani. One person died after jumping to save his life when the fire broke out in the building. The trial of the case filed regarding the incident is not over yet.

Twelve people died in a fire on the ground floor of a building called “Rakhi Neer” in the capital’s Moghbazar area on 7 June 2021.

On 4 April 2023, a fire broke out in the Bangabazar complex. As many as 3,845 traders suffered immense losses due to the fire. The blaze damaged assets worth Tk305 crore. Besides, on 15 April last year, 226 shops were burnt down in a fire in Dhaka New Super Market. Mohammadpur Agricultural Market also caught fire on 13 September of the same year.

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