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Tales of loss and suffering from Nanda Kumar Lane

  • Published at 11:47 pm February 22nd, 2019
web_Chwakbazar-fire
Relatives lament the loss of their loved ones at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on Thursday, February 21, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The conflagration was avoidable, while it also could have been much worse. However, that should not take away from the magnitude of this disaster, nearly a decade after a similar fire blazed in Nimtoli just a kilometer away

Each and every single death in the all-consuming fire in Chawkbazar on Wednesday night is a tragedy. The fire has burned livelihoods to ashes, and destroyed families, for some wholesale, and left many families crippled without a person to depend on.

The conflagration was avoidable, while it also could have been much worse. However, that should not take away from the magnitude of this disaster, nearly a decade after a similar fire blazed in Nimtoli just a kilometer away.

Pangs of hunger

Mostofa, a middle-aged man, drove a rickshaw in Old Dhaka. On the day of the fire, he felt unwell and told his wife that he would not be working on the day. But later in the evening, he realized he had to pay money for food to the mess where he lived, despite having a Tk2,800 deposit for rent.

His hunger overwhelmed his ailing body, and Mostofa pulled his rickshaw into Nanda Kumar Lane at the Churihatta intersection.

Since the fire, his phone has been unreachable. His wife and brother-in-law could only confirm that he left the mess for a few rides to make enough money for a meal, based on the rickshaw garage owner’s account. Other rickshaw-pullers confirmed they saw him head towards the fateful lane.

Nilu Mia, his brother-in-law, has been frantically running from one morgue to another in futile attempts to identify Mostofa. He remains at a loss what to say Mostofa’s wife or his three children, or his mother who is coming from Rangpur to provide a DNA sample to help identify him.

Medicine run

Brothers Mohammad Ali and Opu Raihan were devoted to their bed-ridden parents. On the night of the fire, they discovered some of the crucial medicine had run out. Like dutiful offspring, they swiftly set out to Chawkbazar to purchase medicine. Opu’s four-year-old son begged to join them for the brisk nightly walk, a request they happily obliged. 

They took a turn at Nandakumar Lane on their way back to their Lalbagh home where their parents, wives – Ali’s wife is in her seventh month of pregnancy – and sister waited for them to return.

On Thursday, their surviving sister Jarina wailed in anguish in the Dhaka Medical College Hospital courtyard when she identified the bodies.

In between fits of unconsciousness, she kept crying out: “Who is going to fetch the medicine for abba and amma? Who?”

Orphaned

Ramin was invited to a friend’s coming-of-age ceremony along with his family. He was on a rickshaw with his parents Mithu and Sonia, and his younger brother Shahir. Like many other unfortunate souls, their rickshaw took a fateful turn on Nanda Kumar Lane at the moment when an explosion rocked the Churihatta explosion, setting the area ablaze.

The instincts of Ramin saved his life as he leapt from the rickshaw, rolled over and managed to survive with burns to his face. But his family was not as lucky.

He remains stunned by the turn of events. The bodies of his parents and brother were burned beyond recognition. Their relatives identified them by the jewelry that Sonia was wearing.

Till death do us part

Rifat and Ria lived on the second floor of Haji Wahed Mansion. They were happily married for two years, waiting for further happiness as they were expecting a child. 

When the fire broke out, the couple’s friend Sajid called them, asking whether they were safe. Rifat said he could get out, but Ria was having trouble moving. Rifat could have rushed out and saved his life. But perhaps he could not have considered living with the guilt of abandoning his wife and unborn child. They remained together as the flames leapt up into their apartment.

Their families are traumatized by the turn of events, and remain unable to be of any assistance to the rescue team. The grim task of identifying the charred bodies fell to their friend Sajid, the last person to have spoken to them.

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