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Chawkbazar inferno: Victims’ families cry for compensation

  • Published at 06:25 pm February 20th, 2020
As many as 71 people were killed when a fire broke out at Wahed Mansion in Churihatta, Chawkbazar last year. Among the deceased, 67 were killed on the spot and four others died in hospitals later Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

As many as 71 people were killed when a fire broke out at Wahed Mansion in Churihatta in Chawkbazar, the fire spread to neighbouring buildings

Md Shaheb Ullah, an elderly father who lost his two sons during the Chawkbazar inferno, was continuously crying rather than talking, making the environment of the conference centre reach a pin drop silence.

His sons--Masud Rana and Mahbubur Rahman Raj--died during the devastating fire at Churihatta one year ago, leaving their wives and children destitute. They had a mobile accessories shop in the building.

“One of my grandsons is only four months old. They are leading a helpless life,” said Shaheb Ullah.

“This pain will not leave me till my death. What will be the future of my grandsons, what will they do when their grandparents will be no more,” he grieved. 

This person, who cannot walk without the help of a stick, alleged that none, not even anyone from the government, enquired about their present condition.

He urged the Prime Minister to stand beside them so as to ensure compensation.

Like Shaheb, families of the other victims were also present at the press conference organized for marking the anniversary of the fire incident that killed 71 people on February 20, last year.

As many as 71 people were killed when a fire broke out at Wahed Mansion in Churihatta in Chawkbazar, the fire spread to neighbouring buildings. Among the deceased, 67 were killed on the spot and four others died in hospitals later.

The program was arranged by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (Blast), Brac, Transparency international Bangladesh, Bangladesh Engineers Institute, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), and Nijera Kori at Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium yesterday. 

The victims’ families claimed that they received nothing from the Prime Minister's Relief and Welfare Fund of Tk30 crore, despite repeated appeals to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the principal secretary to the prime minister, and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).

One of the burn victim, Md Abdul Mannan, said: "I have lost my shop, and now running my family with very little income from another shop opened with help from different people."

Fatema Akter, who lost her husband, said: “My husband was the only earning person in the family. I am struggling with my two daughters. My father is running the family for now.”

Moyna Begum seemed much more helpless than Fatema Akter as she has three children. She said: “After losing my husband, I got nothing as an aid.”

Nasir Uddin, who lost his only earning son to the fire, is urging the government to relocate the chemical warehouse to elsewhere.

'It's a murder'

Terming the fire incident as a murder, noted human rights activist Sultana Kamal said: “There are different types of killings... some could be performed cool-headed, sometimes targeting one. In the laws of the land there is a term known as  'death by negligence'. I think this incident falls under this term.

“It is the state's responsibility to find out who is responsible and whose negligence was there,” she said, adding: “In case of a killing, the responsibility is upon the state to investigate and bring criminals to book, and eventually punish them.”

She alleged that the state did not perform its duty. 

She also urges the authorities concerned to compensate the victims who are alive and the families of the deceased.

Criticizing the administration, she said: “They are violating the court's order. We want to see that Bangladesh is performing its constitutional, ethical, legal and sovereign duties.”

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said he senses foul smell in the liaison among the administration, Old Dhaka’s businesspersons and the political leaders in relocating flammable chemical warehouses from the old part of the city.

“Despite repeated orders from the court, we failed to relocate the chemical warehouses. It’s just for the irresponsibility of the people concerned,” he said.

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