Bustling Chawkbazar now hauntingly silent | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:15 AM, February 24, 2019

Bustling Chawkbazar now hauntingly silent

Chawkbazar, an astonishingly buzzing place on any given day, was eerily calm yesterday.

How could it not be when it was ravaged as cruelly as it was by an angry fire less than 48 hours earlier? The blaze, one of the deadliest in recent memory, killed 67 and burnt many others.

“My business has ground to a halt,” said Mohammad Muslim, who brings imitation jewellery from Rangpur, Jashore and Bogura to sell to wholesalers in Chawkbazar. Some of the wholesalers he sold to have died in the fire at Chawkbazar, one of the major trading hubs of Bangladesh -- boasting more than 8,000 shops.

On a typical day, thousands of traders like Muslim flock to the neighbourhood of Old Dhaka from all over the country to buy or sell goods, racking up transactions of hundreds  of crores of taka.

So packed do the narrow lanes get that it is almost impossible to get drive through them. Even the fire fighters on Thursday could not get to the site fast enough to douse the blaze on time.

But yesterday, no such commercial activity or traffic jam could be seen. People who are familiar with the area may find it hard to recognise. 

“All the shops have been shut since the fire,” said Muslim, who would sell goods worth Tk 25,000 a day.

Only those with a curious mind could be found in Chawkbazar and its adjacent areas yesterday, eager to see what the fire has left behind, as members of the law enforcement agencies and fire brigades worked on.

Reazuddin Sumon, general manager of SR Traders, a plastic raw material importer, said more than Tk 1.5 crore used to change hands at his office located near the Wahed Mansion, where the fire originated. Sumon's office was severely damaged.

“I do not know when we can resume the business,” said Sumon, whose store imports plastic granules from China, for which people from different parts of the country would come everyday.

Just a few hundred yards away from the Wahed Mansion is the Urdu Road, the largest wholesale garment market in Bangladesh.

There are more than 500 wholesale stores in Urdu Road selling garment items for the local markets, according to Md Alauddin Malik, president of the Urdu Road Avhantarin Garments Baboshayee Association, a platform of domestic garment manufacturers.The area too remained mostly subdued, with just a handful of shops open for business.

“It will take a good while for life to get back to normal here,” said Abdur Rahman, a dweller in the area.

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