Nine people, including three children, were killed and many others injured as a fire ripped through a slum in Chattogram city's Bakalia area early yesterday.
The flames broke out around 2:30am and gutted around 200 shanties of Chaktai Bhera Market slum, said fire officials.
Ruma Akhter, one of the slum dwellers, said she woke up to screams and heard someone banging on her door.
“As I opened it, I saw my neighbour Rahima and her daughter Nazma. Rahima told us about the fire and then realised that her other two children were still inside their house.”
Forty-seven-year old Rahima, who runs a small tea stall at the slum, and Nazma ran rush to rescue the kids but they too got trapped in the fire, said Ruma, who sells fish for a living.
The four of the family died.
During a visit to the slum yesterday morning, this correspondent saw firefighters and policemen taking out charred remains of the victims in body bags.
The dead were identified as Rahima, 47, her daughters Nazma, 16, and Nasrin, 4, and son Jaker Hossain Babu, 8. Three others among the nine victims were also from a same family -- Hasina, 35, Ayesha, 37, and Shohag, 19, fire officials said.
The identities of the other two victims, including an eight-month-old baby, could not be confirmed till last night.
Fifty-year-old Lal Mia, who runs a grocery shop at the slum, said he and his other family members ran for their lives as they noticed the fire spreading through shanties.
“All of my belongings turned into ashes in front of my eyes,” said the man, who was still in shock while talking to this correspondent around noon.
Jasim Uddin, deputy assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said on information, 12 fire engines rushed to the spot and brought the flames under control following a 45-minute-long effort.
The cause of the fire and where it originated could not be known immediately.
The Chattogram district administration formed a four member committee, led by Additional Deputy Commissioner Mashudul Kabir, to investigate the incident.
Asked, Jashim said the number of casualties was high, possibly because most of the victims were asleep.
The slum, just beside the Rajakhali canal, is illegal and set up on a government land. A small group of influential locals control the place and takes Tk 1,000 to Tk 2,000 as rent from each shanty, said locals.
They also provide illegal electricity and gas connections to the slum dwellers, they added.
Talking to The Daily Star, several slum dwellers said they wanted to leave the place after the administration launched an eviction drive on the banks of the Karnaphuli earlier this month. They, however, could not due to those influential locals.
Meanwhile, the district administration has announced that it would give Tk 20,000 to the family of each dead.