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22 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 22 February, 2019 12:09:53 AM
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fire hazards

Most bldgs in Old Dhaka vulnerable

DEEPAK ACHARJEE, Dhaka
Most bldgs in Old
Dhaka vulnerable
Firefighters and rescue workers yesterday busy at the scene of a fire that broke out near Churihatta Jam-e-Mosque in Chawkbazar of Old Dhaka and spread rapidly to adjacent buildings Wednesday night, killing dozens. Independent Photo

Most residential and non-residential buildings in Old Dhaka are vulnerable to fire outbreaks. A repetition of Churihatta and Nimtoli tragedies can occur at any time. The failure of the authorities to enforce the building code and relocate warehouses from the congested locality has contributed to the precarious situation.

Not only the buildings in Old Dhaka, but at least 98 per cent of the buildings in the capital, especially hospitals and high-rise buildings, run a high risk of fire. Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) director Maj. AKM Shakil Newaj told The Independent that most of the buildings in old Dhaka stand like ‘self-made explosives’ with the potential of causing a tragedy like Churihatta and Nimtoli.

“Huge quantities of chemicals have been stored inside the buildings of the old city, where the streets are very narrow. But the building owners refuse to comply with the building code,” he said.

“Time has come to restructure the buildings in the old town as soon as possible to check any further ‘fire tragedy’,” he also said.

“Basically, Old Dhaka was a residential area. But it has now been illegally transformed into a commercial area, So, it has become exposed to fire risks,” he added.

After the Nimtoli fire incident that killed 124 lives, the authorities were urged to shift all warehouses and chemical godowns from the area. But the authorities concerned, especially the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), has failed to shift the godowns to Keraniganj, sources in the FSCD said.

Talking to this correspondent, FSCD director general Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed Khan said that 98 per cent of the buildings in the capital, especially hospitals and high-rise buildings, were built without the mandatory fire-safety clearance. “We had taken an initiative to conduct special drives in different parts of the city to enforce the building code. But this plan wasn't put into operation,” he added.

“Thousands of high-rise buildings here lack fire safety systems. The owners continue to ignore official warnings despite a growing number of fatal fires in the capital,” he said.

“We had warned most building owners and the chiefs of different government offices to implement the building code as soon as possible to ensure fire safety. But we did not get much response,” he added.

A mobile court can award a maximum of seven years’ rigorous imprisonment to building owners who fail to take safety measure as per the existing building code.

The DG of the FSCD said that most of the buildings, especially the hospitals in the city, have been in operation for years without any fire safety system. "None of the residents of these buildings have any clear idea about what to do during an emergency. They don’t have any training on how to escape the spot safely,” he added.

According to a report titled “State of Cities 2017: Housing in Dhaka” by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, around 95 per cent of the buildings in Dhaka do not have any fire exit.

The report says that in addition to this lack of preparedness, fire hazards become more extreme in residential areas of the capital due to a high density of buildings, narrow roads, flammable building materials, old water and electrical supply systems, and the prevalence of chemical factories. Sources said that the FSCD awarded a huge number of fire certificates to owners of buildings, but many certified buildings have failed to adhere to the fire code. The number of serious fire outbreaks in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country as a whole continues to grow, with 20–40 such incidents being reported every day.   

 

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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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