Legal action will be taken against everyone involved with irregularities in the building’s construction, says housing minister
Nearly every possible rule of building safety and fire safety was violated in the construction of FR Tower in Banani, Dhaka, according to officials at several government agencies.
The 23-storey building became a death trap when a fire broke out and engulfed the entire structure on Thursday afternoon, killing 25 people and injuring over 70 others.
The design of the building approved by Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) was of 18 floors instead of the existing 23. It also had insufficient fire fighting equipment, and there were no clear posted instructions on how to use emergency exit points.
Many people trapped inside by the fire suffocated due to smoke inhalation as they found the emergency exits closed, leading many to choose the desperate option of jumping off the building only to die.
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Rupayan Housing Estate Ltd shared 50% ownership of the building with SMHI Faruq, a businessman.
During a visit to the site yesterday, Public Works and Housing Minister, SM Rezaul Karim, said Rajuk had approved the building design for 18 storeys back in 1996.
“However, another copy was submitted in 2005, revealing that the building had 23 floors. The building owner violated the approved blueprint during construction. We are trying to track down the then chairman and Rajuk officials concerned,” the minister said.
He further assured that legal action would be taken against anyone found involved in the irregularities committed in FR Tower’s construction. “Other buildings across Dhaka will be examined for such irregularities as well.”
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Responding to further queries, the housing minister said: “The licences of the engineers who were involved in the construction of FR Tower will be revoked. Criminal cases will be filed against them and this building will be demolished if necessary.”
The Dhaka Tribune could not get their comment from the building owners, despite several attempts.
Alternate stairwells used as small rooms
According to Bangladesh National Building Codes, 2006, buildings with occupant loads of 50 to 500 must have a minimum of two staircases.
The stairways of a high-rise building must be protected by smoke-proof enclosures if it has occupants, the code further states.
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None of these rules were followed in FR Tower.
Saleh Uddin, deputy assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said the building also lacked even the most basic fire safety system.
“The building lacked proper fire exits; it only had a narrow, alternative staircase. Some of the floors were locked, while on some of the other floors, the stairwells were used as small rooms,” the fire official said.
“The lift is also quite small and the stairways are only 2 by 4 feet in size. There is no proper exit system in place,” he added.