After almost a decade of the Nimtoli inferno that took as many as 124 lives, the devastating fire at Chawkbazar on Wednesday led to the deaths of at least 67 lives! It is a big question as to why the repetition of such horrendous fire took place. Following the Nimtoli fire, the authorities promised to take measures to prevent such tragic episodes but in reality no concrete steps were taken to stop the recurrence of fire incidents.
The stockpiling of a huge amount of chemicals in residential establishments in the old part of the city with almost no precautionary measure against accidents continues for long. The lanes and by-lanes in the area are too narrow for fire fighting vehicles for extinguishing fire and carrying out rescue operations. But none of these provoking situations failed to sensitise anyone to act responsibly.The kind of life-threatening fire in old Dhaka is not new. We have witnessed such heart-wrenching fire incidents in Agamasi lane, then in Nimtoli until we counted the deaths in Chalkbazar and maiming of scores of others on Wednesday. Notably, soon after the deadly fire in 2010, the government decided to shift all the chemical warehouses to Keraniganj, but to no avail.
As reported, a large number of people of no less than 5,000 factories and warehouses under 10 thanas of the old part of the capital city are involved in the trade of chemicals including dangerous acids and inflammable substances. Virtually, every such entity is a potential bomb waiting to explode. We do not know which of the localities in the age-old urban settlement comes next to point again to authorities’ gross disregard to public safety.
As we said above, after every major incident of devastating fire, promises are made to relocate the chemical warehouses to a safer place but not a single chemical store has so far been shifted from there. Now, as none other than Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered for the relocation of the warehouses, let us hope that something concrete will be done to prevent fire incidents and loss of lives.