‘The emergency doors remained closed throughout the incident on some floors’
Md Faizur Rahman, head of the probe committee investigating the FR Tower fire in Banani, quoted survivors as saying that the building alarm system did not go off during the incident.
He made the statement at a public hearing, held at a makeshift control room of Banani police station around 10am on Sunday.
Faizur Rahman, who is also an additional secretary (planning and development) of the disaster management and relief ministry, said: “We have spoken to 24 survivors of the fire in order to identify the cause behind the incident, and its origin.
“We found out that no one in the building heard any alarms, because the alarm system did not go off during the fire.”
He mentioned that the fire appears to have originated on the 7th floor. However, no one from that floor came to attend the hearing.
“After speaking to the survivors, we are primarily assuming that the fire started from an electric short circuit,” Faizur Rahman said.
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He added that the probe committee has not verified the claims yet.
Additional Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs (Security Services Division) Tarun Kanti Sikder said: “The survivors said they saw a blaze coming from the 7th floor.”
‘No one came out through the emergency exit’
Faizur Rahman said the tower had an emergency exit, but no one was able to come out using that.
He said: “We have found that no one came out through the emergency exit stairway. Some floors did not even have any doors to the emergency exit stairs,” he said.
A survivor of the fire, Md Salauddin, who is a senior executive at Quasem Drycells Limited, said: “No one could use the emergency stairs as they were shut.”
“Many people did not even know that the building had an emergency exit. The entire emergency stairway area was free from fire and smoke, but unfortunately we missed it,” he added.
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Ramjan Ali, part of the building’s security team, said: “Everything happened so suddenly, we became very puzzled. We had forgotten about the emergency stairs.
“If we had made use of the emergency stairs, we could have saved more people.”
Shougata Karmakar, assistant general manager at Aamra Networks, said: “We were on the 9th floor. The main staircase was filled with smoke.
“We were absolutely stunned. We started yelling. Finally, we were able to come out after breaking the grills of the adjacent building.”
Rakib Ahsan, professor at the department of civil engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and a member of Buet inspection team, said: “The emergency exit was not accessible from all floors.
“In addition, on some floors, the emergency exit doors remained closed throughout the incident.”
The public hearing was organized by the fire service, police, a six-member probe body formed by the home ministry, and another nine-member probe body of the disaster management and relief ministry.
Twenty-four FR Tower fire survivors attended the event.