The BSEC building in the capital’s Karwan Bazar which caught fire on Friday from the office of the daily Amar Desh and burnt two other private firms on the 10th floor had some faults in its fire fighting system, officials say.
The newspaper office which was burnt completely had inadequate fire fighting equipment, said a fire official after visiting the floor yesterday, on the first day of investigation.
The five-member probe committee headed by Fire Service’s Deputy Director Sheikh Mizanur Rahman visited the floor of the Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation building around noon.
A committee member said the floor did not have auto-ventilation system. As a result, the fumes spread throughout the floor and then went to the other floors through the staircases and reached the ground floor.
“Most of the offices were closed since it was a weekend. Roughly 150 people were inside the building when the fire began and all of them managed to come out unhurt. Had there been more people, there were chances of suffocation and deaths,” the official said.
The emergency staircase is narrow and piled with papers and materials on almost every floor, he added.
“According to our recommendations in 2007, the BSEC authorities were supposed to build two fire exit staircases outside the building. But they built one. As a result, there were many people trapped on the upper floors.”
A Fire Service source said at the newspaper office they found some fire extinguishers, but most of the employees did not know how to use those.
Probe body Chief Mizan said they had collected names and addresses of the witnesses present in the building and the Amar Desh office during the fire. The committee will talk to them today.
“We will try to submit the probe report within seven days and it will be made public,” he said. About their first day’s investigation, Mizan said they had inspected the whole floor, captured video footages and gathered information.
The Amar Desh office was fully burnt, while offices of a lawyer and an accessories distribution company partly damaged, he said.
Asked if electricity connection was restored in the building, he said all the floors, except for the 10th floor, were given connections, Mizam said.
In response to another question, he said the fire had not affected the structure of the building. “The fire only destroyed inner part of the floor.”
Meanwhile, members of another five-member body headed by Director (finance) Syed Muzammel Haque of the BSEC also visited the spot yesterday.
Masud Hasan, secretary of the BSEC, claimed that there was no lack of fire safety in the building. “The fire service officials inspected the building earlier and okayed the safety measured taken by us.”
Asked about their yesterday’s findings, he said: “We will let you know the detail after probe report is submitted.”
No casualty was reported in the third fire incident at the building since February 2007. It houses offices of around 30 private institutions, including two television channels – NTV and RTV.
Four people were killed and 30 others injured when a fire broke out in the building in February 2007. In December the same year, another fire on its ground floor was reported but there was no casualty.