CHAWKBAZAR INFERNO: World media blame lax safety regulations | The Daily Star
12:23 AM, February 22, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:09 AM, February 22, 2019

CHAWKBAZAR INFERNO: World media blame lax safety regulations

World media yesterday highlighted the lax safety regulations and previous deadly fire incidents in Bangladesh, specially in the historic Old Dhaka, where a blaze on Wednesday night ripped through several multi-storey buildings killing at least 67 people and injuring dozens more.

The latest fire tragedy in the country broke out at a chemical warehouse on the ground floor of a five-storey building, named Hazi Wahed Mansion, in Old Dhaka's congested Chawkbazar area and the flames then quickly spread through four other buildings, including a community centre where a wedding party was on, PTI reported quoting a fire service official.

The PTI report said there was a traffic jam when the fire broke out contributing to the death toll. Citing fire officials, it said that the fire spread so quickly that people could not escape. TV images showed the main gate of the five-storey building locked, leaving its residents trapped.

Witnesses said the victims included passersby, some who were eating food at nearby restaurants and some members of the wedding party.

Over 50 people, including women and children, were injured and admitted to nearby hospitals. Some people were injured after they jumped from a building, it added.

All major Indian news outlets carried out the PTI report.

Though there were different versions what caused the fire, all reports attributed highly-combustible stores of chemicals, body sprays and plastic granules for the lightening speed of the fire.

CNN reported previous failed attempts to clear the residential area of chemical and plastic godowns. It said two of the burnt buildings were so badly damaged that they risked collapsing.

The Guardian also reported of a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It said the extremely congested area of narrow alleys made it difficult for people to flee the inferno.

Al Jazeera reported at least 25 people were still unaccounted for. Citing an official here, it said many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and may require a DNA test to identify them.

BBC cited lack of significant steps taken by the authorities after a similar fire in 2010 which triggered an outcry in the country.

The Nimtali fire killed 124 people. That fire was also made worse by the presence of an illegal chemicals warehouse.

Dhaka city has been estimated to house around 1,000 chemical factories that have long been regarded as a ticking time bomb, reported The Guardian. Around 850 are illegal, according to the environmentalist group Poribesh Banchao Andolon.

A survey by Bangladesh's fire department two years ago found 360 chemical warehouses in residential buildings in two neighbourhoods of old Dhaka.

Authorities have repeatedly promised to crackdown on the illegal warehouses and launched the most recent drive earlier this month, but have made little progress.

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