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16 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Chawkbazar fire

Victims yet to get compensation

Rifat Islam, Dhaka
Victims yet to get compensation

It has been almost two months since the incident but nothing has changed in the Nandha Kumar Lane of Churihatta, Chawkbazar. Local business owners and the authorities concerned have not removed any of the illegal and dangerous chemicals. And, while locals and eyewitnesses debate on the number of victims, the families of the victims have not got any compensation money. Earlier, at 10.38 pm on February 20, a massive fire had ravaged several multi-storied buildings on Nanda Kumar Lane in Chawkbazar’s Churihatta area of Old Dhaka, killing 72 people and injuring 19. Damaged buildings being repaired The cracks and the damage the fire had caused to the buildings are evident. Outside repair work and plastering of two of the five buildings have been done. The other three will also be repaired and will be back in use soon, locals say.

After the tragic incident, the members of an investigation committee formed by the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) under Prof Dr Mehedi Ahmed Ansary of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said, "Wahid Mansion's ground floor and second floor were the most affected by the fire. Beams and columns were particularly damaged. The beams and columns on the third and fourth floors were not so badly damaged. However, it will be examined how much damage has been caused."

When contacted today (Monday), Dr. Ansari said, "We submitted our report on February 26. Those buildings are suitable for repair. We asked for an initial clearance papers from the DSCC under a time frame of 45 days. Then we'll give a time frame of 150 days to repair Wahid mansion's owner. But asked DSCC chief engineer Rezaul Karim   for the update of clearance. Those have not been provided yet,”

Victims yet to get compensation     

The family of the deceased or injured still have not officially received any compensation from the government. Taka 20,000 was provided for burial and cremation of each of the dead from the city corporation and 11 injured patients were given Tk 50,000 each from the prime minister's relief fund, some families of the victims said.

Many families lost their earning members. Saheb Ullah is one of them. He has lost everything in that incident. His two sons, Masud Rana (45) and Mahbubur Rahman Raju (27) were working in their phone repairing shop at the ground floor of 'Wahed Mansion' like every day of past 16 years. During the blast, they could not get out of the place. Their bodies were recovered burnt as coal. They were the only earning members of his family.  

Mahbubur Rahman Raju married on January 4, almost one and half month before the incident and his elder brother Masud Rana had a four-year-old son.

"They used to be honest shopkeepers. They did not take money from students for their services. So, they were respected here," said their father Shaheb Ullah.

"I was coming home after Esha's prayer. Suddenly I heard a big blast. People were running here and there for their lives. Somehow, I managed to go home and called my son Rana. But he was unreachable. After three hours of that incident, I found my two sons burnt like coal in their store," Shaheb added. Eyewitness local shopkeeper Nasiruddin said, "Owners of these areas let out their houses on three times the normal rent for using them as godowns. And they live in posh areas of the city. The poor people die here for their greed. City Corporation pretends not to see anything."

Another eyewitness and shopkeeper Sumon Mia’s two nephews died in that accident. He said, “25 dead bodies were found only inside the Wahed Mansion’s ground floor’s corridor. They had pulled down the shutter of stores, hoping to survive, and were staying in them.”

He also complained, “The number of dead contained in the list is wrong. On the day of the accident, there were lots of people. Many were stuck there. When we formed a human chain, we got pictures, disappearance-related papers of nearly 300 people. More people have died than what is being given out by official figures.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, April 4, various private banks donated Tk 30 crore to the Prime Minister’s Relief and Welfare Fund as assistance for the people affected by the recent fire in Churihatta.

The top brass of all the private commercial banks handed over cheques separately to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at an event held at the Gono Bhaban in Dhaka.

The banks that donated money include Bank Asia, City Bank, IBBL, Mercantile, Mutual Trust, NCC, NRB, NRB Global, NRBC, One, Prime, Pubali, SIBL, UCB and Uttara.

Of the 40 private banks, nine new banks donated Tk 25 lakh each, while the rest except the ICB Islamic Bank contributed Tk one crore each.

11-points demand of victims’ families  

Earlier, on April 5, families of Chawkbazar fire victims formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital under the banner ‘Danger Free Roads and Safe Accommodation’, to announce their 11-point demands.

The demands included: each family of the victims must get sufficient financial help; the government should bear the educational and medical expenses of the children of the victims; government job for one member of a victim’s family as per qualification; businessmen who suffered losses in the fire should be compensated adequately; the injured should be given free treatment and financial assistance; gas cylinders should have proper expiry dates and use of expired cylinders must be banned; the government should take initiative to train people who live or work in high-rise buildings; buildings must be built as per the rules and regulations of RAJUK; chemical and flammable objects should be stored in safe places; loading and unloading of gas cylinders at random points must be stopped; a safe and threat-free environment must be ensured for people .

The Chawkbazar fire, which sparked from a chemical warehouse, was the second deadliest chemical-fuelled fire incident in the country after the Nimtoli fire incident that had killed 124 people and injured many others on June 3, 2010.

Although they pose a threat to life, and investigation committees have made it clear that the fire originated from chemicals, a recent campaign for the eviction of godowns in old Dhaka has been opposed by local traders, politicians and other sections.

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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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