377 rooms destroyed, 2 injured, hundreds of residents under open sky
Hundreds of residents in Chalantika Jhilpar slum have lost their homes and all their possessions in another devastating fire – the second in only five months.
The fire broke out in the slum, located at Mirpur 7 in Dhaka, around 4:10am on Friday and razed at least 377 rooms to the grounds, said Ershad Hossain, duty officer at the control room of Fire Service and Civil Defence.
Fifteen fire-fighting units managed to douse the fire by 9:10am, he added.
No less than 1,000 people, including children and elderly people, are now under the open sky because of the fire, which also injured two people.
It is not yet confirmed how the fire originated, or the extent of the damage it caused.
The Fire Service has formed a five-member committee headed by the deputy director to investigate the fire, Ershad said.
Friday’s incident is reminiscent of the horrific fire that destroyed several thousand homes in the same slum on August 16, 2019.
As many as 125 fire fighters, with the help of police, Rapid Action Battalion, Dhaka Wasa and volunteers, worked for more than four hours to put the massive fire out.
Residents in despair
Several residents of Jhilpar slum told Dhaka Tribune they had lost everything they owned in the fire on Friday.
Hazrat Ali and Mohammad Ali, who are hawkers, and Sujon Mia, who is a rickshaw puller, said they had all been asleep when the fire broke out and only managed to save themselves.
“We ran out as fast as we could. We did not get the chance to pick up any of our belongings,” Sujon said.
“We have lost everything. I do not even have a plate or a bowl to take food from volunteers,” Hazrat Ali said.
Among the two residents who were injured, a woman identified as Parvin suffered 90% burn injuries, Fire Service Duty Officer Ershad Hossain said.
Parvin’s neighbour Beauty Begum said the 35-year-old had been living at Jhilpar slum for many years.
“She had no one; she lived by herself,” Beauty added. “She works as a domestic help.”
Parvin is undergoing treatment at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
The other resident, Shahidul, 42, was injured in his leg and is admitted at Islami Bank Hospital, Ershad said.
Locals smell conspiracy
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune on Friday, a number of Jhilpar residents said they did not think two massive fires in the same place in the span of five months was a coincidence.
Requesting anonymity in fear of retribution, one of the residents said the fire broke out at a time when no one was cooking or using electricity, as it was a typical winter day and everyone was asleep.
“It is curious how the fire spread in just 30 minutes,” the resident further added.
During a visit to the slum after the fire, this correspondent found a signboard of the National Housing Authority (NHA) hanging just a few metres away.
Some of the Jhilpar residents said the signboard had been put up merely two months ago.
The NHA owns the plot where the slum is located. According to the sign, the plot is for a housing project for low and lower-middle income people.
Some of residents who were affected by the fire said the NHA wanted to make a list of potential families for the project, but they refused to be a part of it. They did not clarify why they rejected it.
Locals alleged the fire was an act of sabotage, and demanded a fair investigation.
When contacted, Abul Kalam Azad, OC of Rupnagar police station in Mirpur, said no one had filed a complaint over the fire yet, but the police themselves had filed a general diary.
“We have deployed enough police in the area to avert any untoward situation,” the OC added.