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  • Last Update : 02:52 pm

Churihatta traders blame gas cylinders, deny existence of chemicals

  • Published at 11:29 pm February 22nd, 2019
The aftermath of Wednesday night's fire at Nanda Kumar Lane in Chawkbazar’s Churihatta area of Old Dhaka has left hundreds reeling Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

When asked why they are trying to hide the existence of chemicals, they quietly left the scene

Despite the stockpiles of chemicals and flammable substances found at several fire-ravaged buildings in Old Dhaka, a number of traders at the Churihatta area in Chawkbazar have claimed that there was no such stock in the area. 

Insetead, the traders blamed gas cylinders for causing the blaze.

During a spot visit on Friday morning, the Dhaka Tribune found the existence of flammable substances inside Haji Wahed Mansion, a four-storey building nearest where the massive fire originated on Wednesday night.

After the fire broke out around 10:30pm on Wednesday, it spread to the adjoining buildings, which housed numerous shops and warehouses. At least 67 lives were lost.

In Wahed Mansion’s basement, large quantities of flammable substances, namely chemical materials such as carbon and industrial printing dye, were seen stored in a large number of containers and sacks. A number of electric bulbs were also stored on the 1st floor.

Stockpiles of body spray were found in all rooms on the right of the 2nd floor.

At the building, two flats on the 2nd floor were found to be homes of families. Some furniture in one of the flats was untouched by the fire.

Stockpiles of lotions, oils, and other cosmetic items were found in a flat on the third floor.

Some flats appear to have been looted 

Some empty flats were found to be in a haphazard manner, as if someone may have looted or hurriedly removed goods before leaving when the fire broke out. The drawers of wardrobes had been opened, with clothes and other goods strewn on the floor.

Other buildings at the intersection of roads leading to Rahmatganj, Churihatta and Chawkbazar areas were found to be in similar condition, according to Fire Service and Civil Defence Deputy Assistant Director Saleh Uddin.

Fire Service aware of chemical warehouse at Wahed Mansion from before

Fire Service Official Saleh said: “We knew about the chemicals inside the basement, and so we deployed an extra team to focus on stopping the fire from reaching it.”

“The entire basement is full of chemicals. Due to the fast action of the firefighters, the fire did not reach this part of the building. If it did, then we would have had an even bigger disaster.”

“The building would have completely collapsed. We would have had a much more difficult time bringing the situation under control,” he added.

Keeping chemicals in places like these is completely illegal, he further said, adding: “We cannot find any of the building owners. It is possible that they are in hiding now.”

Traders deny any existence of chemicals

Several people identifying themselves as traders in the area have rejected the finding of any chemicals there, holding gas cylinders responsible for the country’s second deadliest fire disaster.

When this Dhaka Tribune correspondent asked them about the illegal chemical stock in Wahid Mansion and whether they would raise their voice against this illegality, one of them surprisingly said: “Who told you there were chemicals in the building? No chemicals have ever existed in the building, or for that even in this area.”

When they were informed about the evidence of chemical substances and body spray in the building, some of them silently left.

Meanwhile, residents of the area said the authorities would find stocks of chemicals in all the buildings in the area if they searched them.

Nobody dares to say anything against the traders out of fear, they added.

Meanwhile Fire Service official Sariful Islam said: “We know that the traders wanted to hide the existence of chemicals warehouses in the area. We have to handle the situation in a strict manner.”

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