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1 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 31 March, 2019 10:51:27 PM
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Banani fire

FR Tower declared ‘unusable’

2 owners placed on 7-day remand; DB to probe incident
STAFF REPORTER, Dhaka
FR Tower declared ‘unusable’
Experts from BUET, forming a part of the RAJUK investigation team, use instruments to inspect the FR Tower at Banani in the capital yesterday. A devastating fire at the building on Thursday killed 26 people. Focus Bangla Photo

FR Tower in Dhaka’s Banani, where a deadly blaze last Thursday killed 26, has been declared “unusable until further notice” by a government probe committee. Not only is the building badly gutted but it also has structural faults. Experts of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) yesterday said that FR Tower cannot be used before renovation as the building has been badly damaged by the fire. Meanwhile, a Dhaka court yesterday remanded two of the owners of Faruque Rupayan Tower (FR Tower) in a case filed over the fatal fire at the high-rise.

The Detective Branch (DB) of police produced SMHI Faruque, 65, owner of the land, and Tasvir Ul Islam, 62, a BNP leader and one of the owners of the multi-storey building, before the court hours after their arrest and sought 10 days' remand. The court remanded them for seven days each before turning down their bail pleas.

According to the building and fire safety codes, the building cannot be used before renovation, said Prof. MA Ansari of the civil engineering department of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), who is leading a six-member RAJUK team.

Three days after the fire, a six-member investigation team from RAJUK visited the spot. Representatives of the BUET and the city corporation were also in the probe team. They inspected the building’s floors. “We inspected the entire building today. We will present a detailed engineering assessment within five months,” said Prof. MA Ansari.

 “It takes 150 days to complete the investigation. We can’t say before the investigation when the building can be used,” he added. The renovation will take at least three months as several columns and slabs have been damaged, Prof. Ansari told reporters. Prof. Ansari said, “As far as we can see, the fire started from the south-west side of level 8, and later spread through it. Building slabs and beams are cracked. It is risky.”

“The building was built in violation of the building code and the design submitted to RAJUK. The building is more risky as it was built up to 22 storeys instead of the approved 18,” said Shamsuddin Ahmed Chowdhury, former RAJUK officer and investigation team member.

Noting that there were no fire safety measures in the building, he said the committee will submit a primary report within two to three days. Meanwhile, the investigation committee of the home ministry and the disaster management and relief ministry believed that the fire was triggered by electrical short circuits on floor 8 of the 22-storyed building of FR Tower at Banani.

The additional secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry, Md. Faizur Rahman, who led the nine-member committee, mentioned this to reporters after a public hearing at the temporary control room of Banani police near the spot of the mishap yesterday (Sunday).

Twenty-four people who work in this building have shared their experiences with the investigation committee. The public hearing took place from 10am to 12 noon. The members of the investigation committee initially reviewed the statement that the fire started from the eighth floor.

However, the officials who worked in the eighth floor denied this claim. They argued that a different source might have caused the fire. Md. Kafil Uddin, assistant director of Spectra Buying on the eighth floor, said there was no sign of the blaze on their floor. They saw the flames of the fire spread from above.

The committee will submit the investigation report on April 3, after taking into account all the evidence of the 24 witnesses and the injured in the hospital.

The probe teams took the testimony of 24 survivors, who were on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors.

Police said, owner of the FR Tower land, Faruque, was arrested from the Bashundhara residential area around 1:45am yesterday, while Tasvir was arrested from his home in Baridhara around 10:45pm on Saturday.

Also yesterday, the DB was given the task to investigate Thursday’s fire at FR Tower that killed 26 people.

“A case, filed over the fire incident, was transferred to the DB in the morning,” said Obaidur Rahman, additional deputy commissioner (media) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).

Banani police station sub-inspector Milton Dutta filed the case on Saturday evening, accusing land owner SMHI Faruk, Rupayan Group chairman Liaquat Ali Khan Mukul, Quasem Drycell Limited managing sirector Tasveer Ul Islam, FR Tower management committee members and several others.

It has since been alleged that the developers were only given permission to construct an 18-storey building, but added five more floors to take the structure to 23 floors. According to the fire department, the building also lacked adequate fire safety measures.

Earlier in the day, survivors of the tragedy at FR Tower recalled those moments of horror and their desperate attempts to escape out of the building.

Shafiqul Islam, a senior manager of Aamra Technologies—which was housed in the ninth floor of the building—and another survivor Salahuddin, an employee of Kashem Group, narrated their experiences to the committee.

Shafiqul said at least 24, including himself, managed to get out through a bathroom window and passed to the adjoining building, ‘Ahmed Tower’, and saved themselves.

Salahuddin said around 200 escaped through the rooftop and jumped on Ahmed Tower to save themselves. One of his colleagues died and four others were hurt.

Faizur Rahman said, “The main purpose of the public hearing is to know how the fire began and to make suggestions for the future. Our investigation committee started work on Friday. The testimonies in a public hearing are part of the investigation.”

He also said, “We have heard the land-owner’s statement. He submitted the necessary documents. Those who have carried out the construction of this building have not yet provided any documents. I have given them time to submit their papers.”

Faizur Rahman said, “We have been talking to those who have been admitted to Dhaka Medical College (DMCH) Hospital and Kurmitola General Hospital about this incident.”

In response to journalists’ questions, he said the fire extinguishing system usually required in such a multi-storeyed building was not installed properly there. No fire alarms were functional in the building during the blaze.

“The fire exit door of the building was very narrow. Again, the exit door was locked on many floors. Also, the exit door did not have any sign. Because of this, they could not use that door,” he said.

“This made it difficult for people to escape,” he added. He mentioned that they will make suggestions about the steps that could have been taken to stop people from remaining trapped.

Earlier, on Thursday, a fire in a high-rise office building broke out that caused 26 deaths and over 100 injuries. Many people were trapped inside the building, but fire officials said—after battling the blaze for several hours—that most had been rescued.

The Banani incident occurred in the wake of last month’s Chawkbazar inferno, which claimed 71 lives.

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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