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Fire fatalities: Lack of awareness leads to higher casualties in winter

  • Published at 11:14 pm January 28th, 2018
Fire fatalities: Lack of awareness leads to higher casualties in winter
Cold waves recently swept over most parts of Bangladesh, including Dhaka, increasing the suffering of people living across the country. But the cold brought another danger - death by fire. The number of accidental fires significantly increased as many people resorted to burners and stoves as sources of heat in addition to forming makeshift camp fires. In the last one and a half months, about 30 people, including children, died in such incidents while more than 500 people sustained burn injuries in such fires. Most of the victims belong to Rangpur, Noakhali, Sirajganj, Lalmonirhat, Thakurgaon, Nilphmari, Panchagarh, Kurigram and Dinagpur districts. However, there is no specific government data regarding the number of causalities in such incidents. On January 8, Bangladesh experienced its lowest recorded temperature in 50 years as the mercury dropped to 2.6°C in Tetulia upazila of Panchagarh district under Rangpur division. Of the total number of deaths from fires, at least 22 people died while undergoing treatment at Rangpur Medical College Hospital (RMCH) and 50 are still being treated at the hospital. On the other hand, the number of such patients doubled in Dhaka Medical College (DMCH) with compared to other period of the year. Four people died and several others sustained burn injuries in makeshift fires in different areas of Dhaka in the last 15 days. Many people are being treatment at the burn unit of the hospital. Requesting anonymity, an official of DMCH burn unit said: "Last year at this period of time we only had 350 to 400 patients." Experts have identified lack of awareness as the main reason behind the increase in fire incidents during the winter season. According to hospital officials, fire service members, and experts, many housewives do not pay attention to the gas line and stoves while using them to ward off the winter cold. They said often gas lines leak in this process and massive fire occurs when the stoves are lit. Dr Samanta Lal Sen, national coordinator at National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery of the DMCH, told the Dhaka Tribune: "Usually we have 300 to 350 during the other time of the year but at present, there are some 600 patients in the hospital. "Most of these patients are from the northern region of Bangladesh. Among them, most are females." Hospital authorities said some 330-beds are being used for these patients at the burn unit and about 100 people, including doctors and nurses, are struggling serve them. Talking about the record number of burn patients, Dr Samanta said: "If the people are made aware about the proper use to gas stove or cylinder then 30% of these accidents will be reduced "The gas companies should guide the users and tell them that the knob of the stove needs to be turned off immediately after they are done cooking." About treating burn injuries, he said: "If a person is burned then fresh water should be poured on the injury for 15 to 20 minutes without interruption. "The victim should then be taken to hospital immediately." Regarding lack of awareness, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Director General (DG) Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan said: "People do not pay attention to their clothes when they light fire to keep themselves warm in winter and that is how they get burned." Talking about fires from gas stove, he said: "In order prevent these fires, the gas lines need to be checked regularly, and the kitchen window should be kept open. "Nets can also be used on the windows so that gas can pass." He added that the doors and windows should be opened first before lighting the stove. "The gas stoves should be changed on a regular basis," the fire service DG suggested adding that the stove pipe needs to be changed at least once a year. Stating that there is no alternative to creating awareness, he said: "If electric wires and switch boards get wet then it must be checked immediately." When contacted, Meteorologist Abul Kamal Azad told the Dhaka Tribune: "Dhaka and its nearby districts will experience mild cold wave from Saturday."