Garden City authorities ‘ignored fire concerns’


Jointly conducted with Liton Haider on Feb 12, 2010, published on bdnews24.com

Relatives mourn deaths

Japan Garden City, the sprawling tower block housing project in Dhaka where a devastating fire claimed seven lives on Thursday night, has been developed without proper fire-safety features and facilities, residents said on Friday, while the country’s top fire official said the housing project authorities have repeatedly ignored fire concerns.

A resident of the project, Abdul Karim, said around 5,000 people are living in 19 buildings 14-stories high in the Garden City in a life-threatening situation due to lack of simple fire-fighting gear.

Witnesses to Thursday’s fire said they could do nothing but watch helplessly as the blaze engulfed the 10th floor of Building 6 as there was no adequate equipment to fight the fire when it first broke out in Flat 1101.

The fire extinguishing equipment that was available did not work, they said in a serious allegation against the building authorities.

Fire service and civil defence director general Abu Nayeen Md Shahidullah, while visiting the Garden City on Thursday night, told bdnews24.com: “Some fire fighting equipment were there at the time. But there was no water available through the hosepipe.”

He also said the housing project authorities have failed to heed the fire service’s concerns expressed on several occasions in the past.

bdnews24.com correspondents on Friday said they were unable to reach Garden City authorities–who had not yet visited the scene–as their phones were switched off. Residents expressed anger at their absence at the scene of the fire.

“We tried to douse the fire with using hose pipes from the adjacent building’s 10th floor. But found no water in the hosepipe,” Mohammad Ullah, a resident of Building 21 which abuts Building 6, told bdnews24.com.

“We also tried to use the extinguishers from our flat, but they did not work. Then we came out of the building to save ourselves,” he said.

Mohammad said the fire was detected very quickly at its initial stage. “It could have been doused easily by residents had there been the necessary equipment at hand.”

Fire chief Shahidullah said the blaze was eventually doused with water from fire-fighting vehicles. The fire broke out at around 10.20pm. Fifteen fire trucks went to the scene. It took an hour to extinguish the blaze, but not before it had killed seven of a family.

The deceased were identified as brothers Tariqul and Rafiqul Islam, their two wives Rupa and Julie, Tariqul’s two children Fahim, 14, and Ayesha, 11, and maid Rozina, 12, all residents of Flat 1402 on the 13th floor of Building 6.

A resident of Building 4, Sabrina, said another fire broke out at the still-under-construction Building 3 a week back. It was extinguished by using hose pipes from adjacent buildings, she added.

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