Over 100 shanties gutted in Mohakhali slum fire
A helpless Md Delwar Hossain, 41, a driver, was sitting under the open sky with his wife and children after escaping a fire that broke out at the Sattola slum in Mohakhali early on Monday.
Just two years ago, Delwar, who had been living at the Sattola slum for the past 18 years, built a two-storeyed house with loan money.
But his house, along with all his dreams, was burnt to ashes in Monday’s fire, which gutted over 100 shanties at the slum.
Like Delwar, many of the other slum residents have lost everything that they had in the fierce fire which took 18 firefighting units to extinguish.
“I built my house by taking loans, I don’t know how I’m going to repay that. I have lost at least Tk10 lakh in this fire,” Delwar said, adding, “I didn’t even get the time to wear a shirt while escaping the fire.”
Quamrul Ahsan, duty officer at the Fire Service and Civil Defence Headquarters control room, said the fire broke out at around 3:57am and firefighters rushed to the spot as soon as they were informed.
There were no casualties reported in the incident.
But Hanif, a rickshaw puller and resident of the slum, claimed: “Had the fire services arrived earlier, the fire wouldn’t have taken so long to douse. They arrived late. Moreover, one of their equipment was broken, and that’s why the fire was able to cause such damage.”
According to the locals, the fire started from a gas leakage from a shared kitchen in the slum.
They said that it took the fire service at least seven hours to completely extinguish the fire, which clocked at around 11am. However, the fire service said that the fire was brought under control within two hours of the operation.
Amena, 22, a mother of three, was describing how she saw the fire starting over a kitchen and called everyone.
“I was up at that time of the night to breastfeed my baby, and suddenly I saw fumes outside, and just within seconds, it turned into this huge pile of fire.
“I screamed and called for help. My house was safe from the fire but someone had stolen a pair of gold earrings, Tk20,000 cash, and a smartphone that I had just bought for my son to do online classes during all the fiasco.”
Meanwhile, Diyamoni, another resident of the slum, complained of not receiving any aid from the government following the fire.
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“Everybody is just roaming around here. It’s been hours since we last ate. Nobody is telling us what to do, we have received no aid yet,” she said.
However, Md Kabir, joint secretary of the ruling Awami League’s Ward No 20 unit, denied the allegations and said: “We arranged food aid twice today. Relief worth Tk1,500 consisting of dried food will be distributed. Also, Tk5,000 cash will be given to each of the families that have been affected by the fire from DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam.
“Apart from this, the landlords in the slum will also be provided with assistance to rebuild their houses.”
The Fire Service and Civil Defence has already formed a five-member probe body led by its Deputy Director Nur Hasan Ahmed to unearth the exact cause of the fire.
The committee has been asked to submit a report within the next seven working days.
Earlier on November 24, 2020, at least 300 shanties and shops at the same slum were destroyed in a massive fire.
In December 2016, more than 100 shanties were gutted in fire at the slum.
On May 15, 2015, at least 32 shanties were destroyed and some people were injured in a fire at this slum.
Also, on October 7, 2012, a fire gutted over 100 shanties of the slum, leaving several people injured.
Fires at slums in Dhaka, home to many low-income people, are quite common and periodically leave thousands of their residents homeless.