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Jhilpar slum residents despondent with homes, belongings burnt to ashes

  • Published at 10:50 pm August 17th, 2019

She had rented 20 tin-shed rooms in the slum along with her joint family. Her rickshaw-puller husband, who frequently falls ill, was sitting some distance away

Suma, a resident of Jhilpar slum in Mirpur 7, was found sitting in front of the burnt remains of her house with her 6-year-old son on her lap after Friday’s fire.

She had rented 20 tin-shed rooms in the slum along with her joint family. Her rickshaw-puller husband, who frequently falls ill, was sitting some distance away.

“My child and I were sleeping when the fire started. My husband rushed into the room and woke us, telling us to run for our lives,” she told Dhaka Tribune.

“We spent the whole night on the road. I only managed to save my boy. We had ten thousand taka in our room, which I had saved by working as domestic help, as well as a television,” she added.

At this point, Suma was interrupted by her son, who said: “You could have at least saved the TV. Only the TV.”

Wiping a tear from her eye, Suma did not speak to this correspondent further.

Helal, another resident of the slum, similarly sat in front of the remains of his three tin-shed houses throughout the night. 

He had come to Dhaka from Bhola when he was a child, and had saved up some money by driving a rickshaw for the past three decades.

 “Whatever I had has been finished by the fire. I managed to save nothing other than my three children, my wife, and my own life,” he said.

Helal added that his rickshaw had been stolen two and a half months ago. “I have no way to live. Where would I go? What should I do? That is why I am sitting here, lonely.”

Also Read- Mirpur slum fire: 3,000 families affected, probe body formed

One of the few people who were found to be in relatively good spirits was Mehedi Hasan. Although he has lost most of his belongings, he had initially thought that he had lost so much more.

“I was not in the slum and when I arrived and saw the flames, I thought my wife and son had both been killed. Fortunately, I managed to find them both alive,” he said.

Being a garment worker, Mehedi had saved up a significant amount of money and their house had been furnished with a bed, refrigerator, and other furniture. 

“I keep asking myself why I was living in such a place. I had saved up lakhs of taka and bought a lot of things, but I was living in such a place that I couldn’t save anything from the fire,” he lamented.

Some of the slum residents were seen on footpaths beside the slum, having salvaged their metal furniture. Among them was Khaleda Begum and her two children, along with a metal cot and rack.

Although she had managed to salvage the cot and rack, Khaleda was unsure where to actually keep them.

“A river had washed away our house, so we shifted here. Now a fire has taken away what we had left. My jewelry is lost, and I have no more clothes to wear other than that on my back,” she said.

Some of the slum residents spent the night at schools near the slum. Abdul Majid, an older slum-dweller, was seen trying to sleep inside a classroom of Bangabandhu Bidyaniketon. 

His wife said he had been unable to sleep as he was worried about what they would do now.

As many as 3,000 families were affected by the fire, with hundreds of shanties gutted, according to fire service officials.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Atiqul Islam has said all necessary basic assistance will be given to fire victims of Jhilpar slum in Mirpur 7 until they are rehabilitated.