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23 February, 2019 12:38:51 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 February, 2019 02:26:21 PM

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Probe team zeroes in on chemicals

2 cases lodged; Wahed Mansion owners sued
Staff Reporter, Dhaka
Probe team zeroes 
in on chemicals

Highly flammable chemicals stored in almost all buildings in Chawkbazar, where fire broke out on Wednesday night, were mainly responsible for the rapid spread of the blaze.   The investigation team unearthed hundreds of chemical containers and sacks underneath the Haji Wahed Mansion yesterday. There was also a huge quantity of packet perfumes, lighter refilling fuel, olive oil bottles, lotion tubes, castor oil, nail polish removers and other flammable objects on the second floor of the building.

This floor was completely burnt and the fire spread to adjacent buildings.

Several probe teams visited the spot and collected samples for investigation.

A team of the Fire Service and Civil Defence yesterday found hundreds of containers and packets of flammable chemicals stored illegally in the basement of Wahed Mansion.

The team broke open the basement’s gate, Ratan Kumar Debnath, station officer of Lalbagh Fire Service Station, said.

“A large number of containers and packets of flammable chemicals had been stored in the basement. It was totally out of our sight. Had the fire reached the basement, more buildings would have been engulfed. Casualties too would have gone up,” he added.

He said they were prevented by some local traders when they were breaking open the gate of the basement. They were told that the

containers only have colors but no flammable chemicals. Kumar said no one can store flammable substances in any residential building, but here it has been done illegally.

The probe body of the Dhaka South City Corporation said flammable chemicals stored in the buildings had fuelled the fire and caused it to last longer.

“Flammable chemicals had been stored in the buildings. Cans of deodorant and lighter refilling fuel were stored. These are flammable chemicals,” said Lt Col SM Julfiqur Rahman.

The investigation team found that Wahed Mansion, from where the fire reportedly spread due to flammable materials, lacked fire safety equipment.

The investigation team of the home ministry told journalists that they will probe whether there was any negligence on the part of government agencies that resulted in the fire. The five-member probe body of the ministry would submit its report on causes of the fire and place its recommendations to avert such accidents in future within five days.

Industries minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun had told journalists on Thursday that the fire had nothing do to with chemicals. It was caused by a gas cylinder blast.

“This has nothing to do with chemical business in the Chawkbazar area. This is a very congested area. Wahed Mansion does not have chemical storage. It has a godown of perfumes and cosmetic products. I have seen it myself,” he said.But the probe bodies found huge quantities of chemicals stored in the basement.

The city corporation cleared the debris from Dutta Road, where most of the people died due to the conflagration.

Locals demanded quick relocation of warehouses storing chemicals from the congested Chawkbazar area.

“I appeal to the Prime Minister to take steps for relocation of chemical warehouses from the area. We want to live,” Serajul Islam, a cycle shop owner, told The Independent.

“After the Nimtoli incident, we repeatedly demanded relocation of chemical warehouses from residential areas, but nothing has happened so far,” he added.

Saiful Islam came to Chawkbazar to register the name of his 21-year-old sister, Fatematuz Zohora, as missing in the Fire Service book.

Dalilur Rahman also registered the name of his 19-year-old daughter, Rehnuma Tabassum, as missing after the fire.

Wednesday’s ghastly incident still haunts survivors, relatives and eyewitnesses. A pall of gloom has descended on the area.

Many families of adjacent buildings left their houses on the fateful night to escape any untoward incident.

Those who are staying said they are in a trauma after the fire, something they had not experienced earlier.

“We are still in a trauma. My family members managed to leave as the fire broke out in front of our building. We ran away with difficulty with the fire engulfing the alley,” Md Siam, a resident of Churihatta, said.

“Chemicals are stored in almost all buildings in our area. There are no proper fire safety measures. We demand relocation of chemical warehouses from the area,” he added.

Lives of residents of the narrow Dutta Road at Chawkbazar will never be the same again. At least 70 people were burnt alive in the devastating fire in the business hub of the 400-year-old Mughal Dhaka, where almost all residential buildings have turned into business structures amid the narrow, crowded and cacophonous lanes and alleys. Nine years ago, people witnessed another deadly conflagration at Nimtoli in the same old Dhaka, where a fire broke out in chemical warehouses, claiming at least 123 lives and leaving many others injured.

“As per our preliminary investigation, the fire was not caused by the blast of vehicle cylinders. We found cylinders of all vehicles burnt but intact,” the chief officer of the explosives department, Shamsul Alam, told The Independent yesterday.

About the fire being caused by the blast of an LPG cylinder of a hotel, Alam said: “We did not get any such proof. We could not collect any shreds of the cylinder from the spot. But we will be trying to collect any shreds of cylinders, if found, by other investigation teams.”

He suspects that fire might have spread to other buildings from sparks of chemicals on the second floor of Wahed Mansion, where chemical products like perfumes abd lighter- filling fuels were stored.

Two cases filed; Wahed Mansion owners sued

The relative of a Chawkbazar fire victim accused two owners of 'Haji Wahed Mansion' in a case on Thursday night, a day after a devastating fire claimed dozens of lives.

The accused - Sohel and Hasan - are brothers, said Sub-Inspector Delwar Hossain, duty officer of Chawkbazar Police station. He said Inspector Muradul Islam is investigating the case.

Sub-Inspector Delwar of Chawkbazar police filed a separate case against unidentified people on Thursday night over the fire incident, said SI Abdul Halim.

IK

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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