At least nine people, including four of a family, were burnt to death and several others injured in a fire at Bera Market slum of Chaktai in Chattogram city early Sunday.
Seven of the deceased were identified as Rahima, 60, her daughters Nasrin, 4, Nazma, 16, and her son Jaker Hossain Babu, 8, Hasina, 35, Ayesha, 37, Shohag, 19, while the rest two, including a child, could not be identified immediately.
Agrabad Fire Service and Civil Defence deputy assistant director Jasim Uddin said that the fire broke out around 3:32am, when all the victims asleep.
A total of 12 fire engines of four firefighting units put out the fire around 5:00am.
Around 200 shanties were burnt but the extent of total damage could not be ascertained immediately, said Jasim.
Deceased Rahima’s brother Akbar said that two weeks ago local administration told them to leave the slum built on government land and they agreed to do so but ‘landlord’ controlling the land told them to stay back.
Many of them left and some were preparing to leave but the landlord told them to stay back and said he would go to the High Court to stop the eviction.
Five people including Sattar, Farid and Helal constructed the slums. So, parts of the slum were known as Sattar Colony, Farid Colony and Helal Colony.
The slum was built up occupying the char near the River Karnaphuli and Rajaklhali Khal.
Seeking anonymity many alleged that the slum was controlled by local Juba League vice-president Akter who gave the duty to supervise the slum to Sattar, Farid and Helal. They used to collect the rent every month.
Chattogram District Administration sources said that to save the Karnaphuli from encroachment local administration conducted a weeklong drive. These slums were on the list of eviction drive. They also served notice on the illegal occupants.
The district administration has announced compensation of Tk 20,000 for each family of the dead victims.
Meanwhile, the district administration formed a four-member probe committee to investigate the fire incident, said deputy commissioner Mohammad Elius Hossain after visiting the spot.
Bakalia Thana officer-in-charge Pranab Chowdhury said the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.
Sunday morning, the affected people were seen lamenting in the open while some were rummaging for savings they had kept under blankets, pillows or in the shelf.
A domestic help from Bakalia, Salma was seen searching for something in the ashes. At one point he got some books of Class IV which her daughter got last month.
Nur Banu saved Tk 30,000 to buy a land in her village but when they heard about the fire she left the house.
Water resources deputy minister Enamul Haque Shamim, Chattogram city mayor AJM Nasir Uddin and local councillor Haji Nurul Haque visited the spot.
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