Mahfuja Mukul: Most of the buildings in the capital Dhaka have been constructed without fully complying with the fire service and civil defense instructions. There is no fire alarm system in these buildings. There is no adequate water and firefighting system. There are enough stairs but they are not open. Shops-warehouses have also been placed on stairs in commercial buildings. Even in the vicinity of the market-shopping mall building, there are hanging electrical cables and AC equipment connections. Altogether, 55 percent of Dhaka’s buildings are at risk.
This information is available by reviewing a recently published fire service report. The report was prepared by inspecting various aspects of fire safety of buildings across the country from January 1 to December 31, 2022.
Recently, the dangerous market like Bangabazar in the capital was declared dangerous on April 10, 2019, but the building owners or businessmen did not pay attention to the notice of the fire service because they did not have the power to take punitive measures. And due to legal weakness, the organization could not take effective action against them. In the last few days, several big fires have shaken all quarters.
According to a related source, the government is going to be strict against the markets, hospitals and buildings that are at risk of fire after Eid. The fire-prone building is currently under intelligence surveillance. Recently, Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman also gave such a glimpse. He said that after Eid, some shops in Dhaka which are at risk of fire and accidents will be closed.
He said, “We consider one or two shops unsafe and accidents can happen there.” We have to take strict action against them. Although Salman F. Rahman gave a message of strict action on behalf of the government, he did not name any market that will be closed.
The fire service and civil defense have listed markets, shopping malls, hospitals, commercial and residential buildings in the capital that are at risk of fire. The list includes 1,305 markets and buildings including Gauchia Market, Noor Mansion, Rajdhani Super Market, Karwan Bazar Kitchen Market, Lily Plaza, Dhanmondi Hawkers Market. Of these, 450 buildings have been identified as high-risk. And there are more than four hundred hospitals including Dhaka Medical and Suhrawardy in this list.
The fire service has started sending warnings to these market authorities and building owners. All the owners of these buildings will receive warnings or notices, according to fire service sources.
On June 4 last year, 51 people were killed in a terrible fire at the BM depot in Chittagong. On February 20, 2019, 71 people died in a fire at Churidhatta in Old Dhaka. In the same year, on March 28, 26 people died in a fire at FR Tower in Banani. 70 people were injured in this incident.
70 people were injured in this incident. In 2010, 124 people lost their lives in a fire at Nimtoli in Old Dhaka.
According to the fire service report, 24,102 fire incidents occurred in the country in 2022. 98 people were killed and 407 people were injured in these accidents. Among the dead are 13 fire service officials.
According to the report, Tk 342.59 crore has been caused by fire in the year 2022. And the estimated value of recovered goods is Tk 1,808.32 crore. Besides, 9,517 fires were brought under control before going into operation.
72 men and 13 women were killed in these fires. 13 fire service personnel were killed and 407 injured in the firefighting accident.
A joint team of multiple intelligence agencies and fire service has started inspecting risky hospitals and buildings-markets even before Bangabazar was burnt down. They have recently identified several buildings as risky, including Dhaka Medical and Gauchia Market. And Bangabazar was also identified as risky in 2019.
Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defense Brigadier General. Main Uddin told that the fire service is working on the market and buildings that are in danger of fire. Attention is given to at least 450 markets and buildings that are at high risk.
Meanwhile, the incidents of fire at Chittagong’s BM Depot or Banani’s FR Tower, Churihatta and Nimtali in Old Dhaka are still etched in everyone’s mind.
The families of the victims in these incidents are still carrying the blue pain of the red fire. Almost every year, the people concerned do not take effective measures despite the casualties and damage caused by such fires in the whole country including Dhaka. Even though the fire service sent repeated letters, they did not budge. Those concerned said that if no major accident happens, no one bothers about the issue of fire safety.
The list has two types of categories – risky and ultra-risky. The Bangbazar shopping complex made up of four markets as dangerous has already been burnt to ashes.
Gulshan Shopping Centre, Jabbar Tower, Rahmania Super Market, Bhuiyan Mansion, Shah Ali Tower in Karwan Bazar, Kaptan Bazar Complex Building-2, Dhaka Trade Centre, Bata Bazar in Moghbazar, Bengal Tower, Arang Plaza, Vishal Center Shopping Mall, Gulshan is also on the vulnerable list. Bhawan Market, Gulshan-2 DNCC Kachabazar Market, Pink City Shopping Complex, Bidisha Super Market, Sabera Tower Market, Baish Bor Super Market, Landmark Shopping Centre, Golam Kibria Mansion, Banani,Bangladesh US Maitri Complex, Baridhara’s New Bazaar Shop Malik Samiti Market, Mohakhali’s Janani Bhavan Market, Shaheen Mansion, Mohakhali Plaza, Jeba Tower, Razzak Plaza Shopping Complex and more than half a hundred markets in the elite areas of Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Uttara areas.
Notable among them are DNCC Market at Gulshan-1, Banani-Baridhara-DNCC Banani Super Market, Saad Musa City Center, Gulshan Tower, Jabbar Tower Shopping Mall, Police Plaza, Rahmania Super Market and Mehdi Market.
Apart from this, there are Karwan Bazar-2 Supermarket, Karwan Bazar Kitchen Market, Karwan Bazar Kamar Patti, Hasina Market, Brack Arang, Haji Zamir Uddin Super Market in Pragti Saran, Fazila Shopping Centre, Mukt Bangla Hawkers Market in Warri, Kaptan Bazar Complex Building-1, Khandkar Electronic Market, Shahbagh Aziz Cooperative Super Market, Nawabpur A. Rahim Muktijoddha Tower, Majnu Hardware Market, Baitul Mokarram Market in Paltan, Paulwell Super Market,City Bhavan, Jahangir Shopping Complex, Ramana Bhavan Market, Maulana Bhasani Stadium Market, Volleyball Market, Gulistan Sundarban Square Market, Dhaka Trade Center South, Fulbaria City Super Market-2, Bangabandhu Stadium Market, Dawn Plaza, Nawab Plaza, Pir Yameni Market, Zaker Super Market in Bangshal, Roslin Vista Shopping Complex, Mirpur Tower Narshi Market and Dasura Tower in Mirpur.
The fire service inspected 5,869 buildings to prepare the report. It identifies 2,223 buildings as dangerous. Among them, there are 671 high-risk buildings and 1,606 vulnerable buildings. At the same time, satisfactory results are obtained in 3 thousand 96 buildings in fire safety.
Dhaka has the highest number of 54.67 percent buildings and Mymensingh has the lowest number of 1.93 percent buildings under fire risk. 54.29 percent of buildings in Chittagong are at risk of fire. Besides, 29.62 percent in Barisal, 41.46 percent in Khulna, 24 percent in Rangpur, 19.76 percent in Sylhet, 14.97 percent in Rajshahi and 1.93 percent in Mymensingh are under fire risk.
The fire service inspected 1,162 public and private buildings in Dhaka and identified 635 buildings as dangerous. Out of which 136 buildings are high risk and 499 are vulnerable. And fire safety of 527 buildings is satisfactory.
The concerned officials of the fire service said that during the inspection, the buildings are identified as risky and high-risk by examining the capacity of the underground reservoir of the building, the number of occupants, the width of the entrance, the presence of smoke and heat detection devices, the floor area, emergency exit stairs, elevators, etc.
Earlier, after several major fire incidents in Dhaka, the fire service conducted a special survey on the buildings in 2017. Published a report on fire safety of hospitals, markets, residential hotels and high-rise buildings. It can be seen that most of the buildings in Dhaka are in danger of fire. According to the report, 96 percent of Dhaka’s commercial establishments, 98 percent of educational institutions, and 98 percent of hospitals and clinics are at risk of fire.
If asked, the president of Bangladesh Shop Owners Association Helal Uddin told that not only markets in Dhaka city, but also various buildings including houses, mosques and hospitals are at risk. However, the Prime Minister has given the responsibility to work on the risky market after Eid, Salman F Rahman is working on it. Risky market will be timed for 15 days after Eid. If their problems and risk levels are not fixed within 15 days, their market will be closed.
Fire Service Director (Operation and Maintenance) Lt. Col. Tajul Islam Chowdhury told, “We give repeated notices.” Various activities are conducted by Fire Service and Civil Defense to increase awareness. Actions such as the application of force are not within our jurisdiction or law. There are City Corporations and RAJUK to apply force.
He said, if any building or market is dangerous or high risk, we notify them. At the same time, a letter was sent from the fire service to the concerned department.
The fire service does not have the power to sue. When asked about the ability to file a case in the future, Lt. Col. Tajul Islam Chowdhury said, “We never wanted to file a case against people.” We want to limit ourselves to fire service work.
In this regard, Iqbal Habib, an urban planner, architect and joint secretary of Bangladesh Environment Movement (Bapa), told that it is possible to remove or demolish only the City Corporation elected by direct vote according to jurisdiction, schedule and power. RAJUK and the Fire Service can issue notices that the building is unauthorized or dangerous. Neither the RAJUK nor the Fire Service have the authority to break or shut down.
He said, we are repeatedly saying that a renewable certificate should be arranged for every building. Be it 2-storey, 10-storey, commercial or commercial building, it is a certificate of habitability and safe building safety for every building. Every year it will conduct different tests. Any civilized country in the world has this process. You cannot live in a building day after day without a building inspection. Every year the building is inspected. If something happens later, the inspector faces various punishments.
Architect Iqbal Habib also said that after the fire in the building of Gulshan, the wife of the building owner did not know where the fire escape was. As a result, he jumped from the building and was injured. Drilling is very important in the fire service. If there is a drill, the possibility of damage after the fire will be reduced on the one hand and on the other hand the loss of life will also be reduced.
Instead of being placed in the Ministry of Disaster Management, Fire Service has been placed in the Ministry of Home Affairs, City Corporation has been placed in the Ministry of Local Government and Rajuk has been placed in Public Works. Uncoordinated urbanization management cannot continue like this.
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