'We weren’t even able to save clothing for the children'
The residents of a Mirpur slum have been combing through the ashes to salvage what they can after a fire gutted their homes in the early hours of Monday.
Visiting the site of the fire on Tuesday, this Dhaka Tribune correspondent saw many slum dwellers sifting through the remains of shanties to collect tin or any valuables that may have survived the blaze.
One such resident, Borhan, was searching through the ruins with his wife Shahinur, as they tried to find some jewellery they had saved for the marriage of their 20-year-old daughter, Mariam.
“We couldn’t bring anything with us, barely escaping (the fire) with our lives,” Borhan said.
“We had saved Tk35,000 as well as some jewellery for Mariam’s wedding (and) while we know the money has been burned away, we are hoping to recover some of the jewellery.”
Borhan said among the more perishable items the family had lost were 50 kilograms of rice and the textbooks for his son’s SSC examinations.
Around 8,000 shanties were gutted and four people, including women and children, were injured in the devastating blaze, which tore through the slum in Dhaka’s Mirpur area early on Monday.
Pallabi police station OC Dadan Fakir said the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained, though no case had been filed and there was no suspicion of foul play.
Slum residents said they were now living either with relatives or by sharing rooms in houses which had survived the blaze, with as many as two or three families occupying each room.
Slum resident Halima, 35, said food was proving to be an issue in the aftermath of the fire.
“Many of us do not have any money to buy food anymore, with the fire having taken it all,” she said. “We did not get to eat anything in the morning, though MP Elias Mollah fortunately provided khichuri in the afternoon.”
She further said that the MP had let them stay at the nearby Mollah market which was under renovation, though the conditions at the market meant they could stay only one night. Halima, her husband and six children were now sharing a half-burnt room with another family who had also lost their home.
Salma, who was sharing the room with Halima, said she had no idea how the fire started and was woken by the sound of screaming in the morning.
“We weren’t even able to save clothing for the children,” she said.
When contacted, Awami League MP for Dhaka-16 Md Elias Uddin Mollah said the government would begin distribution of relief materials, including 30kg of rice for each family, as early as Thursday.
He added that the residents of the slum would return to living in the same area after the repair work was completed. Until then, the Mollah market had been designated as a temporary residence.