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Bangladesh - 2 weeks ago

Fire loss increasing lack of supervision

Zarif Mahmud : From garment factories, godowns, factories, hospitals and slums to skyscrapers, nothing is spared from the flames. According to the information of the fire service, the construction of the building or structure is not being followed by the ‘Building Construction Rules’. Lack of proper supervision and unplanned urbanization are increasing the number of fires and loss of lives.
There are constant explosions and fires as if there is no one to see. Fires are a normal occurrence for this country throughout the year. Most of the fires that occur in the country are in commercial buildings. In many cases, there are hotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments in the same building.
With urbanization, this type of mixed use (hotel, restaurant and commercial establishments in the same building) is increasing day by day. Unplanned urbanization, violation of building code regulations and lack of fire safety awareness lurk everywhere.
In addition, there is a lack of adequate education and modern training in fire prevention. Besides, the fire spreads easily due to the inadequacy of the firefighting system. The number of casualties is increasing due to haste and panic.
However, experts are blaming people’s ignorance and lack of awareness as the main cause of fire accidents. Especially in houses, most of the fires are from used gas cylinders, short circuits and AC compressors or burning cigarette residue. Fires are constantly happening due to gas cylinder leakage in Dhaka and in different cities and villages of the country.
Last March 24 in the afternoon, more than two hundred houses were burnt in a fire in the godown slum of T&T Colony in Banani of the capital. Earlier, 46 people died in Bailey Road fire and 16 people died in gas cylinder leakage in Gazipur’s Konabari. Many are still undergoing treatment at the Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute in critical condition.
According to the information of fire service, 5,372 fires occurred in the country in the first two months of this year. It averages 89 fire incidents per day. In the first 15 days of this month, more than five hundred fires have occurred in the country.
Incidents during 2010 to 2022
Among the fires that occurred during this time are the 2010 fire at Nimatoli in Old Dhaka, the 2012 fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited in Nishintpur area of Ashulia in Savar, the fire at DNCC Market in Gulshan on January 3, 2017 and the fire at Karailslam in Mohakhali on the night of March 15, 2019 at Waheed Mansion in Churihatta, Chawkbazar of the capital. Moghbazar wireless gate blast in 2021 and BM container depot blast in Sitakunda, Chittagong in 2022. These events still stir people’s minds.
In addition, multiple explosions and fires across the country in 2023 caused a great stir. On February 19, 2023, the fire at Mosharraf Zak’s Skyline Building in Gulshan, the fire accident in Banani’s Karail Basti on February 26, the explosion in science lab area on March 5, the fire in Siddiqbazar on March 7, just two days after the Gulistan explosion, and the terrible fire in Bangabazar on April 4. Just 11 days after this, on April 15, a fire broke out in Newmarket, one of the main commercial buildings of the capital, and goods of about Tk 350 crore were burnt in the fire.
This year (2024) on the night of February 29, a fire broke out in the Green Cozy Cottage building in the elite area of the capital, Bailey Road. 46 people lost their lives in the fire. It caused a loss of about Tk 200 crore. Immediately after each blast, officials from relevant organizations including police, fire service, explosives department, CID visit the site and each time an investigation committee is formed. But investigation and case proceedings do not end.
According to the Bureau of Statistics report, Dhaka city has only one fire station for every 742,170 inhabitants. On the other hand, only 40 percent of the sanctioned manpower is currently employed in the Directorate of Fire Services and Civil Defence. That is, as the number of fire services is insufficient, their manpower and necessary equipment are also lacking. At the same time common people are not aware about the risk of fire.
Shahjahan Shikder, officer-in-charge of media cell of fire service and civil defense headquarters told that this year, there have been incidents of fire at Bailey Road, Gazipur’s Konabari, Old Dhaka, Karail Basti, TK Group’s plywood manufacturing factory in Ghazaria and Gauchia’s raw market in Narayanganj. Besides, there have been many fire incidents across the country.
Shahjahan Shikder said, due to people’s ignorance and unawareness, most of the fire incidents have occurred from gas cylinder, short circuit and AC compressor or burning cigarette residue. In Dhaka as well as in different cities and villages of the country, there are constant fires due to gas cylinder leakage.
He said, we can’t neglect some things. During the construction of the building, even if all arrangements are in place, we are not aware of fire extinguishing. Increase vigilance after fire. Again, the basic concept of fire extinguishing is less among common people.
The fire service official said that many of the country’s garment industry organizations have trained manpower and initially taught fire control techniques. But are all organizations doing it equally? In that case, it can be said that there is a risk of fire in various markets and private institutions of the capital and there is no fire control capability.
In this regard, advocate Amatul Karim, an environmentalist and Supreme Court lawyer, said, “We look for each other’s fault after the fire.” Let’s discuss this. But coordination of various development agencies in this regard is very important. Don’t keep that in mind. Building owners in particular often scrimp to save money. Low quality construction materials are used. So, he advised not to compromise on building codes to avoid fire.
He said that every commercial building should have an emergency exit. Each establishment must provide basic training to employees on firefighting systems and provide notice to owners identifying buildings that are at risk. In this case, the owners should be warned. However, legal action can be taken if a building owner does not take necessary measures. In this case, measures should be taken by amending the law and making a new law.
Architect Iqbal Habib, vice-president of Bangladesh Environment Movement (Bapa), said, “We know that six authorities are involved in building construction (Capital Development Authority, City Corporation, Directorate of Environment, Directorate of Fire Service and Civil Defense, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Commerce). Although the activities of the building are supposed to be carried out with the approval of these service organizations and authorities, the rules are not followed in practice. Due to the inconsistency of various existing laws, fire risk management in the city is trapped in a cycle of incoordination and disruption.
He said, unplanned urbanization and poor infrastructure put thousands of structures at risk of fire. Fire Service inspected 5,374 buildings in the country in 2023 and identified 1,694 buildings as dangerous and 424 as very dangerous.
As we see, every fire expose negligence and lack of oversight. But that discussion is like seeing a blind elephant. Even if one or two aspects are discussed, the question of overall disaster management remains out.
Among the six agencies, the most important and discussed are the Fire Service and the Directorate of Civil Defence. The work of the organization is to create public awareness to prevent fire and to protect and rescue the lives and property of the victims in the event of a fire. Ensuring proper use of fire equipment. But since its establishment, the building and the population have been increasing along with the increase in the capacity of the organization.
In this regard, Supreme Court Appellate Division Judge Krishna Debnath said that most of the fires in Dhaka city are due to construction. First permission of Rajuk is required for building construction. It needs to be identified who gives permission and who monitors it.
Krishna Debnath said that the fire on Nimatoli to Bailey Road was due to illegal activities. Therefore, the penalty for illegal activity will be fine and exemplary punishment. Make those cases.
He said, how dare you do something without the construction permission of a building? A restaurant accident occurred when a gas cylinder was placed under the stairs. Why don’t they pull the notice. We will not go there after seeing the notice. If we don’t hear or see, we will go there.
The judge of the Appellate Division also said, “I will not go there when I see that there are red spots, big signboards and there is no adequate firefighting system.” Those who have constructed and designed the building illegally here, there is no monitoring, they should be identified.

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