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18 February, 2019 12:22:01 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 18 February, 2019 11:05:31 AM

Nine slum dwellers killed in Ctg fire

3-member probe body formed
Nine slum dwellers killed in Ctg fire

At least nine people, including seven members of two families, were burned to death and several others injured as a devastating fire broke out at Bera slum in Chaktai area early yesterday. The slum dwellers said they got up from the bed after hearing shouting that a fire has broken out in the slum. The fire quickly spread in the slum and at least eight people sleeping in their homes burned to death. The deceased were identified as Rahima Begum, 50, her son Jaker Hossain Babu, 9 and two daughters Nasrin, 4, Nazma, 16 and three of another family Hasina, 35, Ayesha, 37, Shohag, 19, while identities of others could not be known immediately.

The fire broke out around 3:30am and 12 fire fighting vehicles of four units were rushed to the spot. The fire fighters brought the fire under control after 45 minutes at around 4:15am, said Jasim Uddin, deputy assistant director (DAD) of Fire Service and Civil Defence, Agrabad in Chattogram.  

Later, they recovered the eight charred bodies from the slum while another charred body of a minor was recovered around 10:30 am. The fire also burned down around 200 shanties of the slum.

There were many flammable substances including wood, flimsy houses, oil, gas cylinders etc. that caused the rapid spread of the fire, the fire service official said.

Chattogram District Administration has formed a 3-member probe committee to investigate the incident and has asked the committee to submit the report within seven working-days.

Sources said, influential local leaders of the ruling party including Boxirhat Ward Juba League and Chhatra League under the banner of Chaktai Sramajibi Samabay Samity used to run the slum that had been built illegally 20 years ago spreading about one and a half kilometer areas on Rajarkhali canal (government khas land). The Samity used to rent out the slum to the low income people charging monthly Tk 2,000 to Tk2,200 per room. About 250 families were living in the slum, said locals.

According to sources, the slum was controlled by No.35 Boxirhat Ward Juba League Vice-president Akhthar alias Kosai Akthar, local resident Karim, Sattar, Helal, Farid and Belal Uddin. The syndicate of 108 people under the banner of Chaktai Sramajibi Samabay Samity had grabbed the khas land and divided it among them for renting out, said sources. The slum had electricity connection but no gas connection and the dwellers used gas cylinders.   

Belal Uddin, one of the members of the Samity, who rented out 16 rooms in the slum, told The Independent, “We are living here for generations. There is a high court stay order on our land barring any eviction on this land. We rent out each shanty for Tk2, 000 to Tk2, 200. I am suspicious that the incident may be preplanned as the fire spread across the entire slum very quickly.”

The slum dwellers also alleged that the fire may have been caused by some vested quarters. They said that some people came to the slum about two weeks ago and asked them to leave the place.

Md Akbar, brother of deceased Rahima Begum said, “Two weeks ago we were told to leave the slum warning that it would be evicted. But the owner of the house said that he would go to the high court to fix everything. Getting assured, we did not leave the house though many have left.”

However, Pranab Chowdhury, officer-in-charge of Bakalia Police station said he did not know anything about the eviction of the slum or receive any instructions.  

Deputy Commissioner of Chattogram District Administration Elius Hossain visited the spot and announced compensation for each victims including Tk 20,000 to families of each of the deceased victims. He also said the committee will investigate if the fire was preplanned or not.

Deputy Water Resources Minister Enamul Haque Shamim and Chattogram City Corporation Mayor also visited the sport at noon.

Locked rooms caused high casualties  The dwellers of the Bera Slum in Chakatai of Chattogram used to lock their doors from the inside at night in fear of robbery. When the fire broke out early in the morning, most of the dwellers were sleeping. After the fire broke out, many tried to go out but failed to find the keys to unlock their doors amid heavy smoke. Nagis Akhter, 10, the daughter of deceased Rahima Begum, who died with her two daughters, said her mother, sisters and brother could not come out as they did not get the key. “My mother was shouting and tried to break the door, but could not come out,” she said.

“My other brother Jakir Hossain broke a door adjoining our shop and I came out, but my brother and other members could not come out from their room,” she added.

Living under the open sky

The poor people in Bera slum live hand to mouth. The fire not only cost them nine lives but also took away the little possessions they had and the shelter they lived in. All their belongings and life-long savings including cash, ornaments, rice and clothes are now just burned ashes. Many of them have no place to go. The women and children are the worst sufferers as they were seen living under the open sky, with nothing remaining of their homes besides ashes.

Hasina Begum was searching in the ashes and when asked what she was looking for, she replied, “We have nothing now, no place to go anywhere. During my marriage my husband gave me a pair of gold earrings. I am trying to find those in the ashes.”

Another resident Ruman Akhter was crying. She said her family had been living in the slum for seven years. “We had saved Tk 100,000 during this time. We thought of investing the money in a business, but now it’s all gone with all other valuables.”

After visiting the scene, City Corporation Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin arranged for some clothes for the victims, distributed some cash and announced to arrange food for the affected people for three days.




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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.

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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