Wailing fills air, Kin demand justice

Why will people perish in fire?

Published : 02 Mar 2024 09:16 PM

The wailing of relatives and friends who lost their loved ones in the devastating fire in a commercial building in Bailey Road area in the capital on Thursday night, filled the air and sent a shock wave across the country. Deep sadness caused by the tragic death of their dear ones, has seized the friends family members and relatives and they are now speechless with grief. 

They are even unable to shed tears or express any sorrow but stare aimlessly. However, many of them were seen bursting into tears while speaking about their ill-fated loved ones.  As the families navigate through their grief, the community stands in solidarity, echoing their call for answers and accountability in the wake of this devastating incident. All national dailies ran separate stories on victims’ relatives who were left to mourn their loved ones.

They also demanded exemplary punishment to those responsible for such horrific fire incident. Expressing grave concern, they questioned why will the people be burned alive? 

Urban experts accused the government agencies tasked with supervising for the situation and warned that there could be a catastrophe anytime. Many major fire incidents took place in the capital Dhaka, one of the most densely-populated cities in the world, known for its punishing traffic congestion and unplanned expansion. However, no visible progress has been made in demolishing buildings identified as ‘very risky’ in capital Dhaka. We have noticed that capital’s two city corporations and Rajuk, the regulatory bodies, responsible to enforce safety and standards, and to protect the city people from unethical business, are silent spectator, which is extremely sad. Therefore, thousands of carelessly built commercial and residential buildings across the city have now turned into ticking time bombs, putting the lives and properties of people at risk.

No visible progress has been

 made in demolishing buildings 

identified as ‘very risky’

 in capital Dhaka

In the wake of a series of devastating fire incidents in the city last year, the fire service and civil defence conducted survey at the marketplaces and shopping centres to find out risk of fire hazard as per Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC). The Fire service earlier conducted a survey in 2017 covering 1,300 markets across the country. 

Of them only five markets were found safe from the risk of fire hazard. Some 620 markets were marked as highly risky or risky. A market, building or an establishment is supposed to have enough exits and entrance points, and fire safety measures in proportion with the number of people who visit or stay there. Besides, the buildings must have water reservoir from where water will be sprayed to extinguish the fire. The frequent devastating fire incidents in the last few years, and the loss of lives demonstrated how unsafe the living conditions are, even in upscale neighbourhoods. But even the disasters and deaths fail to bring about change since businesses and building owners are only concerned with profits.

With a large number of vulnerable buildings and establishments in the city and the adjacent areas, we fear many dwellers will have to meet the tragic end of their lives. Despite the burning issue is still being discussed widely, there is also no solution yet for what to do with the risky buildings.  As these buildings were not built in compliance with the [safety] rules and regulations, they continue putting people’s lives at risk. In this regard, we think the government must take the issue seriously and go for immediate action against the structures that flouted the building code and their owners.

The authorities concerned should evacuate the people either living or doing business in the risky buildings and demolish those establishments immediately. Raising concern over fragile, old and risky buildings is not new in Bangladesh but very little has actually been done over the past decades. 

All will have to play a responsible role in ensuring fire safety measures in all buildings. All building owners should maintain fire safety laws and abide by building codes to make people safe from fire.