It was about 3:30 at night when commotion and people's screams woke sleeping Hasina Begum up. Before she knew anything, she saw fire in her shanty. Perplexed, she woke her children and husband up and managed to get out of the house and survived.
"I have been staying here for 30 years. I used to make dresses with a sewing machine which has been burnt too. We could not move anything from the house and everything I had has been burnt into ashes," Hasina Begum, a resident of Sattola slum, was lamenting her frustration sitting in front of the burnt house.
Not only Hasina Begum's family, at least 800 families like hers have been burnt to ashes in Monday's terrible fire at Sattola slum in the Mohakhali area in the capital. Besides, many shops and godowns have also been gutted, the slum dwellers claimed.
Upon receiving the news, 18 units of the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) reached the spot and started working to control the fire. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze after a three-hour effort. However, no one was injured in the blaze.
However, the slum dwellers claimed that FSCD people arrived at the spot about an hour and a half late. They claim that if they had come immediately, so many shanties would not have burnt.
Shamim Hossain had 16 rooms all of which were burnt. He told The Business Standard that the fire service was informed soon after the fire broke out but it took them more than 1.5 hours to get here. FSCF people said that they reached late as some people had stopped them on the way.
FSCD Director General Brig Gen Sajjad Hossain said that the massive fire that broke out at the slum in Mohakhali might have originated from an illegal gas or electricity connection.
"We came to know about the fire at 3:59am. Within 13 minutes, our first unit arrived at the scene at 4:12," he said.
When asked about what obstacles the fire service faced in extinguishing the fire, he said, "Due to overcrowding and many tin-shed shanties in the slum, it took some time to put out the fire. And the fire spread even more due to the presence of flammable materials."
A five-member probe committee formed
A five-member probe committee has been formed on Monday by the FSCD to find out the exact reason behind the fire and the damage caused by it. The committee has been asked to submit the report within the next seven working days.
The committee will be led by Nur Hasan Ahmed, Deputy Director (DD) of Fire Service and Civil Defence (Development). Other members of the team are Abul Bashar, Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) of Fire Service and Civil Defence; Mahmudul Hasan, Senior Station Officer at Tejgaon Fire Station; Abdul Khaleq, Ware House Inspector and Golam Mostafa, Ware House Inspector.
DNCC MAYOR PROMISES TK5,000 COMPENSATIONS
Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam has promised compensation worth Tk5,000 for each family affected by the fire.
Atiqul visited the slum around 12:35pm on Monday, inspected the aftermath of the fire and talked to the victims.
"Police said that about 480 families have been affected in the massive blaze that consumed over 100 shanties. I have talked to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief and measures are being taken to provide relief for those affected," he added.
"For the time being, I have talked to councillors who will provide lunch and dinner until relief arrives. They will also provide tin-shed shelters," he said further.