Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday said the government cannot avoid its responsibility for the Chawkbazar tragedy.
“If anything happens in the country, the government can't shrug off the responsibility as it's in power… this is a fact,” he said while replying to a reporter's question outside the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
On Wednesday night, a devastating fire ripped through several buildings in old Dhaka's Chawkbazar area. At least 67 people were killed in the incident.
The tragedy brings to mind the Nimtoli inferno that killed 124 in 2010. It had sparked a public outcry, demanding relocation of chemical warehouses and stores from the area, but little has been done in the last nine years.
The minister claimed that the authorities had taken measures to remove chemical warehouses from the old town following the Nimtoli disaster.
However, there was still a lack of close monitoring by the authorities, he said. “It [the Chawkbazar incident] could have been avoided had there been a continuous close monitoring following the Nimtoli fire.”
Quader, also the ruling Awami League general secretary, went to the burn unit to visit the injured victims. He also provided financial assistance to nine on behalf of his party.
Talking to the reporters, he said there was no alternative to “starting afresh taking lessons from mistakes”.
He also said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already instructed the authorities concerned, including the Dhaka South City Corporation, to shift all chemical warehouses from old Dhaka as early as possible.
“The government is not sitting idle. It is working so that incidents like the one in Chawkbazar don't reoccur. But those involved in the business also should be conscious about the danger they are dealing with. Life is under severe risk here….” hee said.
Quader also said the government would not let any of those responsible for the Chawkbazar tragedy get off scot-free.
He said the government had already instructed to find alternatives to gas cylinders as explosion of such cylinders in vehicles has increased.
The senior AL leader then called upon the BNP not to do politics over what happened in Chawkbazar.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud yesterday said the government was trying hard to face the Chawkbazar crisis.
“During such times, opposition parties should stand by the government,” he said after inaugurating a conference of Abhinay Shilpi Shangha, a platform of actors, at the capital's Shilpakala Academy.
Talking to reporters, he criticised BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir for his comment that the government's mismanagement and irresponsibility were mainly to blame for the Chawkbazar tragedy.
“Criticism from a political party that has killed people by throwing petrol bombs does not sound good,” he said. “We are probing to find out whether the fire was an accident or a deliberate act.”
Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan also said that the government would take necessary steps for preventing recurrence of Chawkbazar fire.
He was talking to reporters after visiting the DMCH burn unit.
He claimed that all chemical units were vacated from old Dhaka after the Nimtoli fire in 2010.
“They [chemical units] came back. We will take steps so that this does not happen again,” he added.