Chittagong Development Authority chief town planner Shahinul Islam Khan has said that most of the shopping malls and private clinics and hospitals in Chattogram are vulnerable to fire having inadequate or no fire safety measures and pose a threat to public safety.
In an interview to New Age on Wednesday he blamed negligence of owners and users of the buildings and rampant breach of the building code for the situation.
There are about 3 lakh buildings in the port city but most the shopping malls, private clinics and hospitals, where thousands of people visit every day, have been built without fire safety measures, he said.
Usually, building owners do not appoint an engineer to construct building rather they depend on contractors or diploma engineers and even for electrical wiring the prefer local electricians, said Shahinul.
Building owners are completely reluctant to follow the building code and most of the buildings have hardly any fire fighting system, he said.
According to him, the building owners never facing fire outbreak do not think about fire and their first priority is to complete the building the rent it to the tenants. The tenants and other users never ask for fire safety fearing to be asked to leave the building.
He however, said that it was the duty of fire service officials to take action against buildings lacking fire safety measure and they should monitor whether markets, shopping malls and hospitals had fire safety certificates.
Fire service officials said that they were capable to douse fire up to 18 storeys while the development authority was allowing buildings up to 30 storeys.
The chief town planner termed the argument ridiculous, saying that the Fire Service and Civil Defence needed to strengthen its capacity and it had inspectors to monitor fire safety.
The development authority monitors buildings for different hazards, including fire and structural ability, he said, adding that there were 24 authorised officers, 100 inspectors and 30 town planners in Dhaka but only 2 authorised officers, 12 inspectors and two town planners in Chattogram.
According to him, Riazuddin Market, Teri Bazar, Johur Hawkers Market, Tamakundi Lane in Chattogram are very vulnerable to fire. There are hundreds of warehouses, stores, wholesale depots in these markets and any fire may cause huge casualties. In the city’s largest warehouse in Khatunganj, Asadganj, Mia Khan Nagar Old Jute Market, Omar Ali Market areas, roads are so narrow that the fire fighting vehicle will not be able to reach the spot if any fire breaks out.
A few private and public hospitals and clinics in the port city have adequate fire safety measures and conditions of government hospitals are better than the private hospitals, Shahinul said.
Hospitals are different from other establishments, as it is difficult to evacuate patients in case of fire, he said, adding that most of the private clinics and hospitals in Chattogram were not purpose-built. In most cases, the residential buildings have turned into clinics. Hospitals and clinics keep oxygen cylinders, chemicals and other inflammable materials that can cause huge casualties in fire.
According to the Bangladesh National Building Code, high-rise buildings above 10 storeys must have the facility of extra staircases for fire escape, but most of the buildings do not have the facility or even a fire door, he said.
According to the town planner, a few high-rises have extra staircase but those are not maintained properly or the users do not know the entry and exit of those staircases. A few high-rises have fire extinguishers or fire hydrants but few of the building users know how to use the extinguishers or hydrant. Though the owners of high-rises have been spent huge money to build the castle their ‘silly negligence’ can destroy the building forever. The owners are reluctant to spent money on fire-fighting equipments to save the users’ life.
He lamented that the sign posting cost nothing which was a must to indicate the entry and exit points of emergency staircase which people can use during fire.
To prevent fire, the development authority would conduct drive in different areas from April 7 though it was supposed to start from April 4, he said, adding that they would emphasise on quick evacuation facilities and check the structural stability.
During the drive they would fix time for the building owners to ensure fire safety. They would conduct the drive in four zones and at the beginning they would conduct the drive in Riazuddin Bazar and Tamakundi Lane and adjacent areas.
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