Churihatta inferno haunts survivors

Mahabub Alam

20th February, 2020 02:51:50 printer

Churihatta inferno haunts survivors

The survivors of Churihatta inferno in the capital’s old Dhaka are still in trauma over the last year’s deadly fire incident that shocked the whole nation.

The incident on February 20 in 2019 left at least 71 people killed and scores of others critically injured.

Recalling the horrific incident, one of the survivors Salauddin Bepari said he is still haunted by the fear that he was in debris after a massive blast at Wahed Mansion from where the fire originated.

It was about 10:30 pm. That area of old Dhaka turned into a place of charred bodies as the inferno engulfed a chemical warehouse at Churihatra Crossing.

Screaming was all around as people were trying to run for safety.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the deadly incident, the families of the dead and survivors asked the government to bring those responsible for the blast to book.

They say whenever they remember the incident, they get shuddered with fear.

They think they are in the fire or in front of the charred bodies of their dear ones.

“I was on a rickshaw at the crossing. Suddenly I heard a loud sound. After a while I discovered myself under debris,” said Salauddin, who runs a business at Sadarghat.

Recalling the deadly incident, he said he was returning to Islambagh from his business house by a rickshaw at the night of the tragic incident.

The rickshaw got stuck in a nagging traffic gridlock when it reached Churihatra crossing around 10:30 pm.

Suddenly, I heard a loud sound. I thought it was a blast of the nearby transmitter. Before sensing anything, the wall of the Waheda Mansion fell on me and the rickshaw puller, he recalled.

“I got up from the debris and found the ill-fated rickshaw puller lying under debris. He was dead on the spot,” he said.

“I looked around and found injured people lying on the street. I ran over the bodies for a safe place and phoned my elder brother,” he added.

Later, he was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital with 10 percent burnt.

He said the government bore all the expenditures of his treatment and was given Tk100,000 too.

Hosne Ara, the mother of 22-year Rezaul Karim, sought justice.

“My son was the lone earning member of my five-member family. But the incident not only killed my son but also left us undone,” she told daily sun.  

Rezaul breathed his last at DMCH after fighting for life for nine days.

Ruhul Amin, elder brother of another deceased Sohag, 25, also wants exemplary punishment to those responsible for the tragic incident.

“My younger brother used to work at a perfume factory on the first floor at Waheda Mansion. The body of Sohag was burnt seriously due to the flame,” he said.

Sohag succumbed to his injuries at DMCH after six days.

A day after the blaze, Mohammad Asif, son of Jummon Mia, 52, who died in the inferno, filed a case with Chawkbazar Model Police Station against Mohammad Hasan and Shaheed, sons of the owner of Waheda Mansion, and 10 other unknown people.

The police station is still investigating the case but there has hardly been any progress. Sources in the police station said the deadline for submitting the final report had been deferred six times.

“Now, February 26 has been fixed for the submission of the final report,” said a police inspector.

Plaintiff Asif said police do not contact him and he is unaware of the progress of the case.

Investigation Officer (IO) of the case and Inspector of Chawkbazar Model Police Station Kabir Hossain said DMCH’s Forensic Department is yet to make autopsy repots on the bodies.

“That’s why we are taking more time.” 

Contacted, Dr Sohel Mahmud, chief of Forensic Department at DMCH, told daily sun they made autopsy reports of most of the bodies and those would be handed over to police on Wednesday.

The rest of the autopsy reports will be made soon, he added.