Little did they know that such an innocent activity for children’s entertainment could turn fatal in a matter of seconds
The balloon seller had been the centre of attraction for many children in Rupnagar, Mirpur. Every day, when he set up shop in front of the Rupnagar branch of Monipur School and College, he would be seen surrounded by children, mostly from poor families living in the nearby Shiyalbari Slum.
Not being able to afford to buy the colourful balloons, most of these children would stand around the balloon seller, content with just watching the man pumping balloons.
Little did they know that such an innocent activity for children’s entertainment could turn fatal in a matter of seconds.
The gas cylinder the man was using to pump balloons exploded on Wednesday afternoon, killing at least six children and injuring at least 20 children and adults.
Eleven-year-old Rubel, one of the victims, was among the bystander children who were watching others buy balloons when the cylinder exploded.
Rubel’s rickshaw-puller father, Nur Islam, was unable to give his son money for a balloon, as he had not been able to earn his daily income due to illness. “I told him I would buy him one the next day. He was not happy,” said the father, in shock with such a sudden loss.
“I took Rubel to the balloon vendor when he came in the afternoon. It was only some moments after I left him there when I heard an explosion. When I turned around, there lay my son’s battered body,” Nur told Dhaka Tribune at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital yesterday, where his son’s body was kept in the mortuary.
Rubel was still alive when his father took him to the hospital. But when they arrived there, the doctors pronounced Rubel dead.
A first-grader, Rubel was the second eldest among four brothers. His elder brother had drowned last year at their village home in Bhola district.
Nine-year-old Ramzan, another victim, was not a resident of the slum; his family lives in a tin-shed house at Road 10 in Rupnagar, close to the school.
“He went there to play with other children. When the balloon vendor arrived, he joined others to watch him work,” said his uncle Abdur Razzak.
Milon Miah, father of Ria, 7, one of the victims, was seen crying at the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (Nitor), where his daughter had just been pronounced dead on-arrival.
“My daughter and I had lunch together before she went to see that balloon vendor. I will never be able to eat lunch with my daughter again,” the grief-stricken father said.
The air of the casualty unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital became heavy as the injured started coming in for treatment.
The injured are all from poor families, and they do not have the means to bear the expenses of their treatment.
Rupa Begum, wife of rickshaw-puller Md Jewel, 29, said: “My husband has been severely injured in the incident; his left arm has been shattered. He is the only earning member in our family. We have two small children. How will he provide for us now?”
The families of the injured urged the government to pay for their treatment.