• Thursday, Apr 09, 2020
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Rupnagar slum fire: A constant fight for survival

  • Published at 08:38 pm March 12th, 2020

The Rupnagar slum caught fire for the third time on Wednesday

Sixty-year-old Bibi Morium, came to Dhaka from Bhola around 30 years ago after she lost her home due to river erosion. She and her husband fought every day to survive. 

They used to live in a three-room quarter with six children, at the Shialbari side of Jhilpar slum at Rupnagar, Mirpur for the last 15 years. 

But, their new place of living was also destroyed, this time in a deadly fire. Now she and her family have taken shelter at a nearby school. 

While speaking to this correspondent, Morium expressed concern as she has nothing left now. All her belongings were reduced to ashes in the blink of an eye. 

“Where will we go now? We have nothing left. We urge the government to help us live here until we are rehabilitated,” Morium said.

Like Morium, many are now homeless after the massive fire at the slum broke out on Wednesday. They all have taken shelter at the school. 

Local lawmaker and councillor along with the Bangladesh University of Business and Technology (BUBT) students have been voluntarily supporting the fire victims.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Ward 6 Councillor Md Tofazzal Hossain said they arranged food for the fire victims and set three medical camps to provide medical support. 

Also, some NGOs are providing support to the victims, he added.

Many were sitting near the site, in distress. Some were crying, while some were still searching through the debris to see if anything could be salvaged.

Marjina, another slum fire victim, said she and her siblings used to live in the slum since birth and claimed it is their ancestral property. They had 30 rooms, most of which they rented out. But now they have nothing.

They have no alternative source of income. They are thinking of rebuilding the rooms by taking a loan.

Others like Rokeya, Reshma and Kulsum, who took shelter with their family at Islamia Government Primary School, said they lived in the slum for a long time and worked at different places. They said they have nothing in their villages, everything they had, is gone now.

If Rohingyas can live in this country, then why can’t we?” a fire victim asked.

The victims urged the government not to evict them without rehabilitation.

Md Moin Uddin, additional deputy commissioner Dhaka Deputy Commissioner office, said their officials were monitoring the situation. Till now they have a list of the fire victims which is 2,635 and the number of damaged rooms are 383. 

Shialbari Jhilpar Slum in Rupnagar area at Mirpur 6 on fire, on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | Courtesy: Md Rafiqul HassanThey have arranged food materials with the coordination of the local MP and councillor. And they will give 30Kg rice to each fire victims, he added. 

Responding to a question, he also said: “We are doing this to control the primary situation. Later on, the government will take further decision.”

Fire at the same place thrice

Before Wednesday’s incident, two separate fire incidents broke out at this very own slum. This makes it quite clear that the residents of the slum are constantly fighting for their survival. 

On January 24, this year and August 16 last year, the slum caught on fire.

Local lawmaker Elias Mollah after visiting the fire site, said: “It will be clear after investigation as to how the slum caught fire.”

He said: “The fire service, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police will investigate the incident.”

Responding to reporters' queries, the Dhaka 16 MP brushed off allegations that the fires were acts of sabotage, but said law enforcement agencies would look into the matter.

Committee formed for investigation

The Fire Service and Civil Defence have formed a five-member committee to find the exact cause of Wednesday’s fire at Shialbari side of Jhilpar slum. 

Nur Hasan, deputy director (ambulance) of the Fire Service, has been appointed the chairman of the committee, Fire Service Headquarters Duty Officer Ershad Hossain told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.

The other members of the committee are: Assistant Director (Planning) Naimul Hasan Bhuiyan, Deputy Assistant Director Anwar Hossain, Senior Station Officer (Mirpur) Md Anwar Hossain, and Warehouse Inspector Md Golam Mostafa.