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FR Tower fire: Improprieties found on the part of ex-Rajuk chief, 39 others

  • Published at 02:29 pm May 22nd, 2019
FR Tower should be a warning to us all
File photo: Civil Defence officials try to extinguish the fire at FR Tower Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The FR Tower fire incident claimed the lives of 26 people 

Several officials of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (Rajuk), including former chairman Humayun Khadem, were party to malpractice and violation of the law in approving the design and construction of the FR Tower in Banani, a government probe has determined.

Probe teams vested with the responsibility of investigating the fire incident in FR Tower have identified 40 corrupt people guilty of irregularities, Housing and Public Works Minister SM Rezaul Karim said on Wednesday.

The minister made the statement at a media briefing regarding the findings of the probe reports submitted by two committees, formed by Rajuk and the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, at the Secretariat’s conference room in Dhaka.

The permits allowing the construction of five additional floors on the building exceeding the original approved plan, including other design flaws and irregularities, were due to corruption at various administrative levels of the capital development authority, the minister said.

The minister said: “No-one is above the law. All those who are responsible for this incident will surely be brought to book,” he said. “The probe teams, in two separate steps, have identified the individuals involved in various instances of fraudulent and irregular practices.”

SMHI Faruque, an engineer, owns the land on which the 23-storey building was constructed by Rupayan Housing Ltd.

The probe bodies also found that the building’s developer deviated from its design when constructing the commercial tower, the minister said.

Initially, Rajuk approved the construction of FR Tower up to the 15th floor, and later allowed three more floors, which was not consistent with the law at that time, he said.

Moreover, the developer constructed another five floors in violation of the law.

Rezaul Karim said: “Our target was to find where there was any irregularity or discrepancy in the construction of this building. Who is behind this?”

Rajuk’s own five-member probe committee found 40 people, including many of their own officials, involved in four major irregular practices.

Initially, the probe body identified six current and former officials of the state-run agency who colluded to help the developer build the illegal parts of the building.

The probe report also stated that the 23rd floor of the “cursed” tower was built illegally and several Rajuk officials were involved in the process. Nine of them were found negligent in monitoring the building’s construction, according to the report.

The government approved the FR Tower plan for 18 floors, three more floors than the original 15-floor plan. However, the building owner submitted yet another corrected plan for 23 floors, on February 23, 2005, and insisted it was the original plan for the building which was subsequently approved by Rajuk officials. 

A later investigation in 2007 also showed discrepancies between the Rajuk-approved plan and the plan upon which Rupayan built FR Tower.   The report also found that no fire safety facilities were present at FR Tower.

“When a report appeared in 2007 regarding the illegal portion of the FR Tower in Banani, the Rajuk chairman at the time, and a few others, failed to take any action,” said the minister, citing the probe reports. 

On March 28, the deadly fire in FR Tower claimed the lives of 26 people and injured more than 70.

Multiple probe committees were formed to investigate the incident and determine the ones responsible for the design malpractices that ended up killing and injuring so many.

1,155 buildings without fire safety

In a drive launched after the FR Tower fire, Rajuk has found 1,155 buildings that are in violation of fire safety regulations.

Meanwhile, at least 431 residential high-rise buildings and 44 government establishments were built violating the building code, the capital city development authority has discovered, Housing and Public Works Minister SM Rezaul Karim said at the press briefing. 

Rajuk launched the drive on April 1, three days after the FR Tower fire, with 24 teams inspecting the buildings in eight zones across Dhaka, a Rajuk official said. 

According to Rajuk report, only 539 buildings in the city has sufficient fire safety facilities – i.e. fire extinguishers, fire alarm, hose pipes, and fire hydrants.

There are no fire exits in 566 buildings at all, while 721 buildings do not have proper fire exits. Only 786 buildings have proper fire exits.

Housing Minister Rezaul said Rajuk inspected 1,818 high-rise buildings, of which 1,136 were Rajuk-approved, while 207 were approved by other organizations. More than 450 buildings have been built without following the building code, he added. 

In many buildings, the car park space approved by Rajuk is being used for other purposes.  “We will serve these building owners with legal notices first. Then we will take action according to the type of irregularities. We will give everyone time to correct the faults in their building,” the minister said. “The illegal parts will be demolished.”