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  • Last Update : 11:44 pm

Fire DG: Unsafe chemical storage helped spread fire

  • Published at 07:43 pm February 15th, 2019
Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital
One of the burnt corridors of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital on Friday, February 15, 2019 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Flammable materials were stored carelessly at Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, he said

The Fire Service director general came down hard on Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital authorities, saying they did not follow proper housekeeping practices, which exacerbated the fire that gutted two floors and led to the evacuation of 1,200 patients.

Flammable materials were stored carelessly and there was minimal fire response equipment, he said.

“The fire spread very quickly. It was a long storage area,” Director General Ali Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune on Friday, referring to the storeroom on the ground floor of the hospital where the fire originated.

Shaheed Suhrawardy hospital in Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar caught fire on Thursday evening, leaving more than 1,000 patients under the open sky in dire situation for hours.

The massive fire broke out around 5:50pm, control room Duty Officer Md Rasel at the Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters told the Dhaka Tribune.

The Fire Service director general said that although the investigation into the fire was still underway, they were assuming that it originated from the storeroom and spread to the children’s ward two floors above.

Highly flammable chemical materials were being kept in that storage area, sources said.

“They closed off a corridor and converted it to a store. The fire spread from one end to the other very quickly,” Ali Ahmed said.

“The fire travelled quickly from the ground floor to the second floor through stairwells. These stairwells were unused, locked down and packed with materials,” he said.

“There was very little time to respond.”

Chemicals and plastic materials are supposed to be kept compartmentalized, and sufficient space between them, the fire chief said.

When asked about the fire response preparedness of the hospital, he said: “There was not much. It was not satisfactory.”

There were no hydrants and only a handful of extinguishers at the hospital, Ali Ahmed said.

“This is what I saw last night [Thursday]. The investigation is underway and it will consider all aspects and possibilities,” he said.

Hospital authorities deny allegations

The Dhaka Tribune reached out to the Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital Director Professor Dr Uttom Kumar Barua. He said: “We have formed a seven member committee who will investigate the incident. They will find out the cause of the fire.

“The fire authorities primarily think that the origin of the fire was at the room of a Professor Dr HM Feroj due to a short circuit. His room was adjacent to the storeroom. There were some combustible things in there such as medicine, air conditioner, and fridge. The room also had bandages, plastic foam and syringe—which contributed to the fire spreading.

The fire gradually spread to the first and second floor of the hospital building. We have no causality from the incident.”

He also said ward 12, the gynecology ward on the second floor was damaged the most. Ward 11, the children’s ward, which is right next to it, was heavily damaged as well.

“It will take some time to have the wards fully functioning again,” he added.

When asked about fire extinguishers at the hospital, Uttom Kumar Barua said: “Most of our fire extinguishers are old. Moreover, we do not have enough of them. Recently, we bought some new ones.”

He could not cite the exact number of fire extinguishers at the hospital.

Regarding the hospital’s response to the fire, he said: “A few months ago the hospital staff was trained on fire and earthquake safety, which is why we could handle the matter so effectively when the fire broke out.”

About the chemicals he stated there were no chemicals carelessly lying around at the hospital.