Dhaka,  Sunday
14 April 2024

Dhaka becomes a burning death trap

Staff Reporter

Published: 07:43, 2 March 2024

Dhaka becomes a burning death trap

Burnt Green Cozy Cottage, a seven-storey building, on Baily Road in the capital (1), brokenhearted relatives gather at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital mortuary to pick up the bodies of their loved ones (2 & 3), and a photo of five members of the same family who (except the 3rd from the left) died in the fire (4). Photo: Messenger

The capital city of Dhaka has become a living death trap for its residents, where no one feels safe, whether in offices, restaurants, shopping malls, or even at home. 

Recent events have underscored the pervasive sense of insecurity that permeates the city, as numerous fire incidents have ravaged its landscape, leaving devastation in their wake. 

Although the concerned authorities are aware of what needs to be done to overcome this crisis, their actions have not been very substantial.

The death toll from the fire at a multi-storey building on the capital’s Bailey Road rose to 46 by Friday, and duty doctors fear the death toll is likely to rise as the burnt patients under treatment are still not out of danger.

Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen said that patients are still struggling between life and death. He told The Daily Messenger at the Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute on Friday noon, “Some 10 of the injured individuals in the fire undergoing treatment in the Hospital are not out of the death threat.”

The fire broke out in the building at around 9:45 pm on Thursday. After extinguishing the fire, the injured were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute.

The seven-storied building that caught fire housed a restaurant named ‘Kachchi Bhai’ on the second floor, along with several other restaurants on the upper floors and a clothing store on the third floor. These eateries were crowded every evening with families.

Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh visited the patients at the hospital. During his press briefing at the hospital, he blamed the building's insufficient safety measures. Replying to a query by The Daily Messenger, he admitted the responsibilities of the city corporation. He said, “No, we don’t avoid our responsibilities. We have taken measures to ensure the building's safety.”

Still, on Friday, relatives of the injured patients waited with tension in front of ward-520 as all the patients were under danger.

According to eyewitnesses, the fire broke out on the first and second floors and spread upward later. Within a short time, members of the Fire Service and Civil Defense reached the spot and started extinguishing the fire. Simultaneously, they conducted a rescue operation using a crane to evacuate people who had taken refuge on the roof of the seven-storied building. Some 13 units of the fire service brought the fire under control around 11:50 pm on Thursday.

Smoke engulfed the entire building. Fire service members began searching inside the building after extinguishing the fire and rescued several people unconscious. Several of the injured were transported to hospitals in a freezer van of the fire service.

Speaking to the press around 1:15 am, Fire Service Director General Brigadier General Md Main Uddin said they had rescued three bodies from the building. Additionally, some 45 people were rescued unconscious, including 21 women and four children. Besides, some 75 people were rescued alive, including 15 women.

Md Main Uddin said there were only restaurants in the building, except for a clothing store on the third floor. As a result, there were several gas cylinders on every floor, which caused the fire to spread rapidly when they exploded.

He said most of the people died of breathing problems due to the dense smoke, with few having burn marks on their bodies.

A fireman told the press that there were large gas cylinders from top to bottom of the building, making it difficult for people to escape as those cylinders caught fire.

Speaking regarding the source of the fire, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)–3 additional superintendent (ASP) of police Kamrul Hasan said around 2:30 am that there is a coffee shop on the ground floor of the building. The fire started after a gas cylinder exploded there, according to eyewitnesses.

Mohammad Ali Mia, chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police, said the fire spread from the ground floor of the building. The fire service has formed a five-member probe committee over the incident, and more searches inside the building are likely.

The process of handing over dead bodies to their relatives started at 5:41 am on Friday. The district administration, police, and members of the fire service are involved in the process.

IGP Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun and Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Habibur Rahman rushed to the spot upon hearing the news. The IGP told the press, “One of our colleagues lost his daughter in the fire. Another one died at the Police Hospital. Please pray for those 75 people who have been rescued alive.”

Several people sustained injuries after jumping off the building as it caught fire. At least 12 of them were admitted to the DMCH, most with injuries to their hands and legs.