Bangladesh: Massive fire razes slum in Mirpur

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - The cause behind the huge fire, which burnt more than a thousand shanties to ashes, is still unknown. 

A massive fire broke out at a slum in Chalantika area of the capital’s Mirpur Friday night, burning more than a thousand shanties to ashes.

After a three-hour effort, 24 firefighting units brought the fire under control around 10:35pm.

The fire spread to several nearby buildings at Mirpur-7 as strong wind was making the firefighters’ job difficult.

The firefighters rescued four injured people and took them to hospital.

The fire originated at the slum around 7:22pm, but the cause could not be known immediately.

The blaze rendered thousands of slum dwellers homeless and left nothing for them other than charred valuables.

They fled their homes with whatever they could find at hand, as their cries made the neighbourhood gloomy.

Police and Rab members were seen trying to stop on-lookers to make way for the firefighters.

Most of the shanties were made of wood or bamboo with the roofs covered with polythene, which helped the fire spread quickly, a fire service official said.

The residents are mostly low-wage earners, including garment workers, rickshaw-pullers, house maids and day labourers.

Many of the families went to their hometowns to celebrate Eid and were yet to return, a local said, adding that the blaze destroyed everything as most of the shanties were locked from outside.

The slum has three units and can accommodate around 1,000 families, locals said.

When the fire broke out, many people got out through the backside of the slum.

Portion of nearby Al-Arabiya mosque have been gutted.

A multi-storey building, a hospital and several garment factories are located next to the mosque.

The authorities evacuated the workers and shut down the factories immediately after the fire started, locals said.

Talking with the journalists, Tarun Kanti Sikder, additional secretary to the home ministry, said they were yet to identify the cause of the fire.

Lt Col Zillur Rahman, director (operations) of the fire service headquarters, said it took more time to bring the fire under control for lack of water sources nearby.

They were yet to determine the extent of the loss, he added.

Meanwhile, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam and local MP Elias Mollah visited the spot.

Talking to reporters, the mayor said shelter centres were opened at local schools for the victims and the city corporation will arrange food for them.

He promised all kinds of assistance to rehabilitate the victims.

Many were suspecting it was an act of sabotage. Asked about it, Elias Molla refuted the allegation and said it was an accident.