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Understanding the Dhaka fire tragedy


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Deadly Fire in Dhaka: Overview of the Catastrophe

The Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, experienced a tragic event on Thursday, 29 February, when a massive fire engulfed a multi-storey building, resulting in the loss of at least 46 lives and leaving dozens injured.

The blaze, which reportedly started in a restaurant within the seven-floor property, rapidly spread, leading to a significant emergency response.

Seventy-five individuals were rescued, with many requiring hospitalization.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, with initial reports suggesting potential safety lapses.

A fire service official disclosed that the building lacked an emergency exit, and cooking gas cylinders were inappropriately stored in stairwells and restaurant kitchens.

Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen reported the tragic death toll, noting that at least 33 fatalities occurred at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, with 10 others succumbing to their injuries at the city’s main burns hospital.

Mr Sen further mentioned that 22 individuals were in critical condition.

The Response and Eyewitness Accounts

The incident drew immediate attention from the emergency services to the Kacchi Bhai restaurant, located in the building which also housed various shops.

Brigadier General Main Uddin, head of the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, indicated that the building’s structure, containing gas cylinders on each floor, significantly exacerbated the danger.

Sohel, a restaurant manager, described the chaotic scenes: “We were at the sixth floor when we first saw smoke racing through the staircase.” He recounted the desperate escape efforts, including climbing down using a water pipe, with some sustaining injuries from jumping.

Mohammad Altaf, another survivor, shared his narrow escape through a broken window, lamenting the loss of his colleagues who died after assisting in evacuation efforts.

Historical Context of Fire Safety in Bangladesh

Fires in commercial and residential buildings are unfortunately common in Bangladesh, often attributed to poor safety awareness and lax enforcement of regulations.

This latest disaster parallels other tragic incidents, such as the fire in July 2021 at a food processing factory that claimed 52 lives, and the February 2019 inferno in Dhaka apartment blocks resulting in 70 deaths.

IFSJ Comment

The catastrophic fire in Dhaka underscores the urgent need for enhanced fire safety measures and stricter enforcement of regulations in Bangladesh.

The high death toll and the numerous injuries reflect a broader issue of safety standards in densely populated urban areas.

This tragedy serves as a reminder of the vital importance of adherence to safety protocols and the implementation of effective emergency response strategies.

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