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23 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 February, 2019 12:10:35 PM
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Narrow roads, water scarcity hinder fire control efforts

MD HABIBULLA, Dhaka
Narrow roads, water scarcity hinder fire control efforts
Dhaka South City Corporation uses a heavy construction vehicle yesterday to clean the wreckage following the devastating fire that originated on Wednesday and razed several buildings and the adjoining neighbourhood at Chawkbazar in Old Dhaka. AFP Photo

Absence of accessible roads for fire tenders and on-spot water reservoirs have made old Dhaka and slums in the city extremely vulnerable to fire. Over the past one year, a staggering 16,008 incidents of fire took place across the country. Of them, about 150 took place in densely populated areas, especially slums across the country where adequate streets and water supply are not available. Wednesday night's Chawkbazar fire, which killed at least 67 people so far, WAS one of the deadliest fire outbreaks in the country’s history. A similar fire incident took place in June 2010, in which 123 people died and 50 others sustained burns. It was at Nimtoli in old Dhaka, where most of the buildings are in close proximity.

Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) vehicles are unable to reach these areas, including different slums, in the capital in time to douse the blaze due to inaccessible paths and inadequate water supply.

Owing to the high population density in slums in old Dhaka, fire fighting and evacuation from the affected areas usually become extremely difficult.

Narrow streets and shortage of water are major obstacles for firefighters, said Major AKM Shakil Newaz, Director (operations and maintenance) of Fire Service and Civil Defence.

Khurshid Anwar, senior station officer of the Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters, told The Independent that they often face water crisis in slums, as well as old Dhaka. Because of inadequate space, fire tenders canNOT reach the scene with water tankers.

As there are a lot of flammable materials in the slums, fire spreads rapidly, he said. According to the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence data, 1,952 people died in fire incidents last year, including fire-related road accidents, and 13,649 others were injured.

On March 13, 2018, around 8,000 shanties were gutted and four people, including women and children, were injured in a devastating fire at a slum in Mirpur.

A fire broke out in 254, 170, 75, 624 and 74 slums across the country in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively.

Dr M Shafiq-Ur Rahman, head of the urban and regional planning department of Janhangirnagar University, told The Independent: “The old part of the capital and slums do not have adequate fire-resistant facilities. These areas also do not have wide streets to move. As a result, fire fighters are unable to move easily.”

“Slum- dwellers are not actually responsible for fire incidents. Fires are common because of the typically flammable building materials (timber, bamboo, etc) stored there, and these ignite fire and it spreads easily,” he said.

He also said the government should formulate a policy to rehabilitate them so that they can live in better conditions.

The government must create awareness among slum people about fire incidents, he added.

Replying to a query, Khurshid Anwar said: “We’ll instantly alert those who flout the building code and fail to install fire-resistant facilities.”

Slums are constructed in an unplanned manner and most of them have illegal power connections, said an official of the BFSCD.

“These connection materials are of low quality. Most fire incidents start from short-circuits. The use of stoves with illegal gas connections in slums is also a major cause of fire,” he added.

 

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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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