In the early evening on Monday, the air surrounding the morgue at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital (Mitford Hospital) was heavy with cries from the relatives of the workers of Barishal Hotel and Restaurant. Six bodies were brought to the morgue from the restaurant at Chawkbazar following a tragic fire at the building earlier on the day.
The relatives gathered in front of the morgue waiting to see if any of the charred bodies belonged to their kin.
"Why did you leave us? Why did you have to come to work?" Nasrin Akhter, whose nephew Md Sharif, 15, one of the workers at the restaurant who is deemed missing, wailed.
Sharif's maternal grandfather Abul Kashem said the young waiter hails from Cumilla. Following his father's death, poverty forced him to come to Dhaka looking for work to support his mother.
Kashem said Sharif worked the night shift and was presumably asleep alongside his colleagues when the fire engulfed the building, which did not have any kind of emergency escape route or effective fire prevention measures.
According to officials, the fire ignited around 12.00pm from the ground floor of the building which housed the restaurant, officials said.
"We were told a gas cylinder explosion caused the fire, but we cannot confirm it without probing the incident first," said Lt Col Zillur Rahman, director (Operation and Maintenance) of the Fire Service and Civil Defence Directorate.
It took 10 firefighting units some three hours to douse the flames and recover the bodies that were burnt beyond recognition.
Therefore, officially six people are deemed missing since the fire until the bodies are identified through DNA testing.
The missing are Billal Sardar, 35, of Barishal's Muladi; Osman Sardar, 25, of Shariatpur; Md Sharif, 15, of Cumilla's Chandina; Shwapan Sarkar, 18, of Habiganj's Bamoin; Rubel Hilal, 28, of Madaripur's Kalkini; and Motaleb, 16, of Bairshal.
The bodies will be handed over to their families after the DNA tests are done, said Md Zafar Hossain, DC of Lalbagh DMP.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed condolences for the bereaved families.
Fire officials said the restaurant building, including the buildings in the vicinity, did not comply with construction rules, causing delays in controlling the fire.
"The building only had one staircase. It also did not have any necessary equipment for fire control," said Colonel Zillur Rahman of the fire service.
Officials said such unplanned constructions can lead to similar disasters in the future.
This is not the first time Old Dhaka woke up to such a tragedy. Over the last decade, this part of the capital witnessed some of the worst fire incidents in the country's history. The area is packed with warehouses and factories constructed following building codes, which have now become ticking time bombs.
On 3 June 2010, a fire from a chemical warehouse in Nimtoli left at least 124 people dead and damaged multiple residential buildings in the vicinity.
The then Bangshal police inspector Abul Hasan said no cases were filed over the fire. Hasan, who is now the Officer-in-Charge of Gulshan police station, said a general diary was filed over the incident but no investigation ever took place.
Later on 20 February 2019, a huge explosion ripped through the Churihatta Intersection, causing a massive inferno killing at least 72 people and engulfing three surrounding multi-storey buildings. Some of the victims died 11 days after the incident succumbing to their injuries.