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Destitute by destructive fire

  • Published at 11:57 pm February 9th, 2020
Banani fire rd dt
People in slums are already living hand to mouth and this fire has destroyed their hard earned worldly possessions Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Open sky is the only roof for the survivors for now

Disabled, Md Noor Islam, 55, was sitting on a wheelchair beside the ashes of a house he rented.

Suffering from disability since childhood, he is now being treated harshly by life as he lost all his worldly belongings to the fire that broke out at Banani's T&T slum, late on Friday night in Dhaka. 

Noor revisited the harrowing experience saying:  “Struggling with my disability, I could manage to crawl outside my house with the help of my wife, leaving the wheelchair inside and somehow escaped death.”

Noor moved to Dhaka 20 years ago when the river washed away his house in Bhola, a riverine district in southern Bangladesh. In order to run his family, Noor started begging on the streets of Dhaka city. After years of struggle, he got one of his daughters married and managed to save up Tk7,000.

“All the money I saved has turned into ashes now. I feel desolate and lost. Now I don’t even have a way to go back to my hometown,” he sighed.

“I had to spend the night under a foggy open sky, with my wife and six children,” he added.

Not only Noor, but a few hundred poor and people belonging to lower income group have lived in the slum for years. Some have also invested their life savings to make the shacks, their homes.

However, the open sky is the only roof for them for now.

Abdul Khalek, 38, one of the house owners in the slum, used to own 12 shanties.

“To build the rooms, I had to borrow Tk60,000. I have only paid back Tk20,000 in installments. But now, with all the rooms burned to the ground, where will I get the money to pay the rest of the installments?” asked a frustrated Khalek.

Even though he has been living in the shack for about 30 years, it took eight years for him to furnish his “dream” home.

“Whatever I have earned till date was spent on buying furniture. I don't even know if I can ever recover from my losses,” feared Khalek.

When this correspondent visited the spot, most of the tenants were found sitting under the open sky with no electricity and access to toilets. Some of them were seen making tents with polythene.

Anu Begum, a mother of three who built a two-storey wooden building with her own earnings, saw her house turn into ashes right in front of her eyes.

“My luck is really bad because I could not even draw two months’ rent from my tenants. My husband is also unemployed, even though he used to run a shop earlier,” she said.

“All my income sources have been ravaged by this fire,” added an exasperated Anu.