A fire at a four-storey building at Chawkbazar and the fall of a BRT (bus rapid transit) project girder on a moving car at Uttara in the city on Monday accounted for avoidable tragedies. In the fire incident at Kamalbagh in Chawkbazar area, six restaurant workers reportedly died of suffocation while they were asleep. It was under similar circumstances that 71 persons were burnt to death in another devastating fire originating from flammable chemicals in the same part of Old Dhaka at Churihatta in Chawkbazar three and a half years ago. The Monday's fire, too, is suspected to have originated from a plastic goods factory on the upper floors of the building. One can well guess the ferocity of the Kamalbagh blaze from the fact that it took more than two hours for ten fire-fighting units to bring it under control.
But why is such recurrence of terrible fires in a very congested place like Chowkbazar in Old Dhaka? One may recall that twelve years back at Nimtoli, also in old Dhaka,124 people died as the fire from a transformer explosion set fire to flammable chemicals stored in shops that were adjacent to one another. Evidently, even more than a decade after the horrific Nimtoli fire or the appalling Churihatta inferno at Chowkbazar three plus years back, no serious attempt has been made to remove the shops dealing in goods made of combustible materials or warehouses storing those. Clearly, the law has not worked as it should have.
In the second incident that happed after 4 pm in the afternoon of Monday, five passengers of a private car, returning from a wedding event, were reportedly crushed to death at Uttara in the city, as a concrete girder of an under-construction BRT elevated expressway fell on it. A young married couple also riding the same car, however, could be rescued alive. The 80-tonne girder reportedly fell as the crane lifting it apparently went off-balance and tilted on one side.
What is most glaringly obvious in either of the tragedies is gross irresponsibility and a lack of concern for human life. In the second tragedy, one wonders why the movement of traffic was allowed in the area where work for the BRT project was going on! A similar accident happened at the same project site in Uttara area more than a year ago in which six people including three Chinese were injured. Going by the report, it is indeed very concerning that the crane in question failed to bear the weight of the huge concrete girder. It naturally sends shivers down the spine as to how the construction work for the big-budget infrastructure project is being run! Are the types of machinery being used and the operators who are in control of those up to standard? Also, the question arises if the management running the whole affair is doing its part efficiently.
A 5-member probe body has reportedly been formed by the Road Transport and Bridges ministry to inquire into the tragic incident. But as it is often the case, the results of such officially initiated probes in most cases turn out to be an exercise in stating the obvious. But what is more urgently needed here is prevention of causes that lead to such avoidable tragedies befalling unsuspecting victims. And it can be done through closer scrutiny, monitoring and application of law by appropriate authorities and making those responsible accountable.