A GAS supply line explosion at Patharghata in Chattogram on Sunday morning left seven dead and 10 others wounded, raising concern about the maintenance of the supply line and its safety issues that have repeatedly been ignored. Although the cause of the explosion is yet to be known, the incident has brought to the fore a number of safety issues regarding both the supply and the improper construction of buildings. The explosion took place right after a resident of a building lighted a matchstick, near a gas supply line that may have been leaking. A wall collapsed on people standing close by. The local administration, the gas supply agency and law enforcers appear to have held different views about the cause of explosion, leading to the institution of three investigations, it appears, as different sources confirm, that the explosion took place because of a leak either in the gas pipeline or in a septic tank on the location. While the Fire Service and Civil Defence is reported to have found the supply line very old and not wrapped in rubber and, therefore, vulnerable to rupture under high gas pressure, the Chattogram Development Authority has found that the building on the location was erected in breach of the building code.
Both the causes — faulty gas pipeline and the neglect of building safety standards — have claimed dozens of lives in the recent past. To mention some recent incidents, two apparel factory workers died and six became injured in an explosion believed to have been caused by a gas line leak in Narayanganj in April and a worker died and seven became injured in another gas pipeline explosion in the same district in July. It is evident from the situation that the existing protocol for the maintenance of gas pipeline is either ineffective or flawed while the adherence to the building code in the erection of structures has also not been strictly maintained. There are many instances, particularly in the capital city and its neighbouring towns, where regulatory authorities have knowingly allowed faulty construction and risky buildings to stand tall. No adherence to safety protocol in the construction of buildings has also claimed many lives in the past. The collapse of a three-storey building, to mention, in Narayanganj in early November killed two children and injured five others.
Realising the gravity of such negligence in ensuring safety standards in both laying out gas supply line and building construction and their impact on the life and property, the government and its agencies concerned must step up efforts to ensure safety issues in general. In the incident at hand, the authorities must establish what has caused the explosion and punish, on credible investigations, the people responsible. The government must understand that promises, or handover, of a meagre financial assistance to the victim families and the institution of investigations are not enough. Adherence to standard protocol, both in laying out and maintaining gas pipelines and in building construction, is what is urgently required.
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