Dhaka North City Corporation’s all the 211 shops with corrugated iron-sheet roofing Kitchen Market at Gulshan-1 in the Bangladesh capital were reduced to ashes by a devastating fire that broke out at 5.45 AM on Saturday.
On January 3, 2017, barely two years and three months ago, the first devastating fire destroyed over 300 shops at what was then the two storied city corporation kitchen market at Gulshan 1.
No casualties occurred in either occasion.
Saturday’s kitchen market fire occurred only two days after a devastating fire at 23-storied FR Tower at Banani in the capital killed 26 people including a Sri Lankan and left over 100 others injured.
Fire Service and Civil Defence control room officials told New Age that they got information about the fire at the kitchen market at Gulshan 1 at about 5.45am and 20 fire tenders were rushed to the spot to douse the fire at about 10.30am.
The source and the reason of the fire could not be identified immediately, they said.
Army, Navy and the Air Force also joined the fire dousing activities.
‘It was about 5.20 AM when people going to mosque to say Fazr prayers saw smoke emitting from the north-eastern corner of the market with groceries,’ Abdul Hai, security guard at an adjacent market told New Age.
He said that with the other security guards from the nearby markets together with the passers-by sought help at the top of their voice and later contacted the shopkeepers of the kitchen market, the police and the Fire Service.
By then, fire engulfed the whole market, he said.
The market had retailers and wholesalers of almost all sorts of goods including cosmetics, jewellery, apparels, shoes and electric and electronic appliances besides of course all the kitchen items.
Witnesses, shopkeepers and fire-fighters said that the ceiling under the market’s tin roof was highly inflammable for which the fire spread throughout the market in minutes.
Dhaka North City mayor Atiqul Islam said during his spot visit that the market had no fire extinguishing system.
He said that DNCC’s plan to construct a permanent kitchen market did not materialize due to various complications.
A DNCC revenue official told New Age that all the 211 shops in the market had been destroyed by fire and that the shops owned by the same people were destroyed by fire in January 2017.
Although the authorities had made a list of 291 affected shopkeepers for providing compensations none of them got any financial support until now, said the shopkeepers affected by fire twice since 2017.
‘I only could see my shop reduced to ashes on reaching the spot at about 6.15AM. My shop was completely destroyed by fire two years ago. Now I am a beggar,’ said Liton Mia, owner of Liton General Store standing in front of what is now nothing but ashes.
As the fire broke out, the whole area was engulfed by smokes. The police and other law enforces found it difficult to keep the curious crowd at bay.
Shopkeepers were in tears.
The heavy jams kept the traffic virtually stand still on the streets around and the open spaces and parking lots were over crowded with on lookers.
Fire Service director (operation and maintenance) Shakil Newaj said that the market had no fire extinguishing system and that the fire fighters faced acute water shortage during their dousing operation.
He said that after the January 2017 fire, the market authorities were asked to implement a set of recommendations to put in place fire safety systems but none of them were implemented.
Fire Service officials said that the shopkeepers association was asked to put in place sufficient number fire extinguishers, leave enough space between shops and keep enough water available inside the kitchen market.
He said that the Fire Service formed a five-member committee to probe into the fire and submit its report in seven working days.
The DNCC formed a separate five member probe committee led by its chief engineer brigadier general Zubair Salehin.
DNCC Kuncha Market Businessmen’s Association president Dil Mohammad told New Age that one month after January 2017 fire the DNCC made a makeshift kitchen market under tents.
‘As it was not possible to do business for long under tents, the shopkeepers constructed the kitchen market under tin roof with our own money,’ he said.
Responding to a question about fire safety measures as the fire service had directed he made no comments.
During his spot visit, housing minister SM Rezaul Karim told reporters that within 15 days the task of preparing the list of buildings at fire risk would be made.
The destroyed kitchen market would be rebuilt in 10 days, said mayor Atiq.
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