Thursday, May 30, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Blaze by blaze we refuse to learn

More than a hundred people died then, most of them attending a wedding on a rooftop in that densely populated area of  town

Update : 22 Feb 2019, 01:01 AM

The latest fire in Old Dhaka is more than just a wake-up call. This is another testimony pointing to the collective apathy. And to be fair, the Nimtali fire of 2010 was the wake-up call. This time it was the snooze button blowing up in our faces. 

More than a hundred people died then, most of them attending a wedding on a rooftop in that densely populated area of  town. It was pointed out then that the fire had gone out of control. The speed, intensity, and extent of the fire was ascribed to the flammable chemicals stored in the building. The fire department had said it was particularly difficult to deal with, because the ground floor garage was being used as a chemical warehouse.

The Chawkbazar fire was by no means any different. Regardless of the cause of fire, it had spread and burned in a similar manner, compared to that of almost nine years ago. The same set of facts and the same conditions exist today. The reasons are the same too. If anything, the number of warehouses and the amount of chemicals have probably increased over the last nine years.

The fire also points to the obviously alarming lack of regulation of dangerous chemicals. There are absolutely no safety standards and people in the business, beginning from the regulators to the salesmen, are perhaps blessed with a thorough absence of scruples. This also points to the fact that more noxious elements — extremists and militants, for instance — could easily get their hands on such substances for either explosives and bombs, or processing narcotics.

The old town does not have streets wide enough for fire trucks to go through, a fact that has been painfully obvious every time there is a fire there. In fact, given that the fire service headquarters are located on the fringe of the old town, it is not a surprise either.

But all these points were clear nine years ago. Now it is clear that all those reassurances, precautions, warnings and ultimatums, all those pledges to resolve the situation of streets, or regulation of cosmetics manufacturing, were merely empty words. This government has not been able to set this right in nine years in the heart of the capital. It was because of that criminal apathy that at least 70 more people have died.

One wonders if it would have been the same stoic response from the authorities if it were Banani bazar instead of Chawkbazar, where people have died a second time. 

Probably not.

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