Bangladesh celebrates today International Day for Disaster Reduction in the backdrop of at least 190 people getting killed, hundreds of others injured and properties worth Tk 1,456 crore damaged in 52,176 incidents of fire in past three years.
Celebration of the day across the world began in 1989, at the call of the United Nations General Assembly to promote the culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction.
The day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.
The 2017 edition takes place as part of the ‘Sendai Seven’ campaign, centred on the seven targets of the Sendai Framework. This year the focus is on Target B, of which the aim is to reduce the number of people affected by disasters by 2030.
The government took a number of programmes to celebrate the day across the country.
Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence director general Ali Ahmed Khan told New Age that the losses caused by fire in the capital were increasing due to the Fire Service face problems in reaching spots in time caused by traffic jams and narrow roads.
Besides, he said, acute water shortage and obstacles created by unplanned building construction also cause delays in starting fire dousing operations.
He said quick response could reduce damage and save life from perishing.
Besides, even in the capital the number of fire stations, he said, was far from adequate.
The capital needs 20 more fire stations for quicker response, he said.
He described 322 fire stations across the country as far from adequate.
Until October 8 this year, said Fire officials, 52 people were killed, 169 others injured and goods and properties worth Tk 118 crore damaged in 5,181 incidents of fire.
BUET mechanical engineering faculty dean Maksud Helali called electric short-circuit as a big cause of fire in Bangladesh.
He said that electric short circuits occur due to building owners using substandard materials in the power lines to minimise costs with the authorities looking the other way.
Besides, he said, absence of dedicated water reserves, emergency exit stairs, smoke evacuation system, fire fighting tools and fire hydrants in most buildings cause greater losses if fire broke out.
He said strict enforce the laws by the government could reduce occurrence of fire by sensitizing people against it.
Dhaka University Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies director Mahbuba Nasreen said that fire, being not a natural disaster, its risks could be minimized with better preparedness.
Before 2009, she said the government even did not recognise incidents of fire as a disaster for which putting preparedness in place was neglected.
In 2016, said Fire Service officials, 39 per cent of fire in this country originated from electrical short-circuits and 20 per cent from stoves.
They said that in the same year, 14 per cent of fire originated from abandoned burning cigarettes, 4.73 per cent from burning fuel and ash, three per cent from open kerosene lamps, 2.81 per cent due to children playing with fire and numerous other causes.
But, said Fire Service officials, the cause of six per cent of fire incidents was unknown to them.
Social and Economic Enhancement Programme’s coordinator of ‘Towards Resilient Dhaka Project’ Shyfun Naher said lack of awareness increased the vulnerability for all specially the disabled people, women and children living in the capital’s slums.
As an NGO, she said, SEEP campaigns to raise awareness of the capital’s residents about the risks of fire and how to reduce them.
She said that as people did not recognize fire as disaster but as an emergency they neglect the importance of preparedness.
She said community’s involvement, instead of waiting for Fire Service to reach from a distance, could minimize losses by fire.
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