Most of the old shopping malls in the capital are running without sufficient firefighting equipment, keeping life and property of owners, tenants and customers at a risk.
According to fire protection act 2003, all the buildings including the commercial establishments must have sufficient fire safety gears and conform to measures of public security.But most of the old markets don’t have enough safety measures, emergency exits and sufficient space between adjacent buildings.
Fire experts said according to the fire rules, every floor should have at least two fire extinguishers, hydrant point, water reservoir and a tank on top which will always contain a certain amount of water.
According to BUET Prof Mehedi Ahmed Ansary, almost all the buildings in the capital were constructed flouting the National Building Code and the Fire Act.
He said the building code required each and every high-rise to have its own safety measures like fire exit, fire alarm, fire extinguishers, water reservoir and the other requirements in place according to the size and height of the structure.
Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) identified 622 shopping malls and markets in Dhaka as extremely risky and 678 others as risky after conducting a survey on 1,305 commercial establishments from October to November 2017.
The 622 very risky shopping malls include Chadni Chowk, Gulshan Tower, Bangabazar Complex, Polwel Super Market, Mirpur Shopping Complex, Shyamoli Garden and Lalmatia Aarong Market.While visited, Gausia Market, Chistia Market, Noor Mansion, New Chistia Market, Ismail Mansion, New Market and Yakub Super Market were found to be lacking in fire equipment (fire detector, alarm bell and fire extinguisher) in all the floors of the market.
A member of Gausia Market shop-owner association said they have 40 fire extinguishers, two big underground reserve tanks. If any fire incident occurs, they can use this water.
Asked whether those fire extinguishers were kept hanging as required, he said they were kept stored in the guard room.
Security guards of the market will work as firemen during any fire incident, he said, adding that Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) hold a fire drill for them every year.
Rokon Mia, one of the shop owners at Gausia Market, said the roads of the market are too small to accommodate so many customers.
The market committee is not taking any measure to fight fire, if any, while the fire extinguishers are stored in the guard room, he added.
“If any fire breaks out in this market, which have no alternative exits and are highly congested, 200 to 300 people may die.” Bangabazar Hawkers Market, Gulistan Hawkers Market, Sundarban Square, Bangabandhu Square Patal Sarak Market and Gulistan Shopping Complex are also running without proper fire-fighting equipment.
Dino Moni Sharma, assistant director of warehouse and fire prevention at FSCD headquarters, told daily sun the basic fire safety facilities include fire detection and alarm systems, extinguishers, hose reels with water connection, fire escape route, accessible road and reservoir with adequate water reserve.
It also needs safe shelter assembly space and in-house trained fire-fighting team, he added. “The market authorities have to take safety measurement for their shops. We can help them by giving assistance including training and fire drill.” “Nowadays, we strengthen our awareness campaign for the shopping malls. Every Thursday and Sunday we are holding fire drill at various establishments in the capital.”
“If any market authority applies to us for training, fire drill or any sort of help, we will instantly arrange it for them,” he added.