Conservative estimates are over 500 houses burned down in the fire whose origins have yet to be determined. However, no casualties were reported in the fire.
This was the second fire in the Korail slum this year, with one earlier in March. The fire could have been contained sooner had the fire fighters better coordinated their efforts.
Fourteen units from four stations - Gulshan, Phulbaria, Sadarghat and from the headquarters were dispatched to the scene without any commanding officer. The absence of a leader more or less clamped down on the fire fighting efforts as each and every decision was made taking an absurd amount of time as 200 more houses went up in flames.
The fire service first tried to carry the water pipe from Beltoli area gave up when it took too much time. Then they went over to the Gausul Azam Mosque and tried to douse the fire from and failed yet again.
As both attempts were rendered futile, they finally used a water pump from a boat to draw water directly from the lake onto the areas ablaze.
The Korail slum, located across Gulshan area and divided by a lake, has over 150 acres of land which is the largest in slum in Dhaka city. The slum sitting on some prime real estate belongs to Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) has avoided several eviction attempts by authorities over the years.
Also Read- Fear of eviction haunts Korail slum residents
Confusion over origins of the fire
There has been some confusion over how the fire originated. Some locals claim the fire started from a gas stove in a local shop called Samad Bedding Shop in the slum.
Al Amin, a local resident, argued that the fire originated from a transformer on an electric pole. He said sparks were frequently seen from the transformer which may have been faulty.
Fire Service and Civil Defence Deputy Assistant Director Abdul Halim said the fire started at 2:30pm and the fire fighting crew reached the spot at 2:50pm. He said the fire was put out at 4:20pm.
The origin of the fire could not be identified immediately, he added.
Also Read- Govt mulls 6 rehabilitation options for Korail
Recent ban on boats derailed rescue attempts
The slum residents were furious about the recent ban on boats ferrying passengers between the slum and Gulshan/Banani, a security measure taken after the Gulshan terror attack.
They said most of them could not save their belongings as they could not take boats to the shore.
Kalpana Begum, one of the victims said her salary in cash burned down with everything else in her house.
“We lost everything! What are we going to eat and where are we going to live?” she cried.
The authorities allowed the boats to operate after the fire broke out.
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The fire did not see a lapse in the effort to douse the blaze that has wrecked so many lives in so little time Dhaka Tribune/Mahmud Hossain Opu
Rumana Akhter, a garment worker and resident said the fire spread so fast they prepare for their mad dash to escape the fire.
She said: “We received medical supplies and first aid treatment from Brac.”
Brac's head office is across the street from the slum and their Disaster Management Team actively worked to accommodate the residents of Korail slum along with taking care of 40 unattended children and provided them with food and water.
The children were first relocated to the Brac premises but they pleaded to be close to their houses. The Brac Disaster Management Team negotiated with the Gausul Azam mosque authorities to let the children stay there for the time being until their parents take them away.
Brac has made a list of the children they have in their custody. They announced the names of the children through the mosque's public address system. Some parents have lined up to pick up their children.
Two pregnant women have also been evacuated from the fire and being treated by Brac Health Programme staff.
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Annisul Huq visited the slum afterwards. He said the government will help the victims of the fire once it was under control and an estimation of the damages was made.
The AL-backed ward councillor was not present at the scene but Jubodal members were seen making food for about 1200 affected people when the Dhaka Tribune correspondent visited.