Friday, 4 June 2010

Nation mourns as death toll rises

Nation mourns as death toll rises
117 bodies recovered, families to be given compensation

The nation mourns the dead today as the death toll from Thursday’s fire in eight buildings in Old Town of Dhaka increased to 117 till Friday evening, casting a pall of gloom everywhere.
The air had weighed heavy over Old Town, a closely woven society, since the fire, the deadliest ever in Dhaka, broke out about 9:00pm on Thursday with the grownup losing their wife and children and the children losing their parents and elders.
At least eight bordering buildings went up in flames after, according to the residents, an electrical transformer in an electric pole exploded reportedly by a lightning strike as a storm began at the time.
More than 150, mostly women and children, were injured as the fire continued burning for two hours. Plasters flaked off the building walls at the impact of the explosion of the transformer and the buildings burned black.
The government on Friday announce a national mourning day for Saturday in a mark of respect to the deceased.
The president, Zillur Rahman, the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and the leader of opposition in the parliament, Khaleda Zia, in separate messages on Friday expressed their shock at the loss of lives in the fire.
They prayed for the salvation of the departed souls and offered their condolences on the deceased.
Hasina went to the DMCH burnt unit about 11:00am on Friday and said the government would bear treatment cost of all the patients and their rehabilitation. She also announced the government would open such burn units in the districts.
Khaleda along with her party leaders and activists visited the place of occurrence about 2:00am on Friday and announced to pay for the treatment of the patients.
Special payers were said in mosques, temples, churches and pagodas across the country on Friday seeking salvation of the departed souls.
The home ministry early Friday formed a three-member committee, headed by additional secretary Iqbal Khan Chowdhury, to investigate the incident and asked it to submit its report in seven working days.
Twenty-six of the injured were admitted to the burn and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Fourteen others were sent to Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka.
Fourteen of the critically injured suffered burn of at least 40 per cent of their body surface area, said physicians at the hospitals. Most of such patients had their respiratory tracts burnt.
The authorities cancelled the leaves of physicians in the emergency ward and the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Medical assistants from the defence joined DMCH staff in providing treatment.
The reason behind the fire, however, was yet to be established, officials of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, which carried out the rescue operation, said.
But rescuers suspected the transformer explosion caused by a lightning strike was behind the fire, which spread to a chemical warehouse and the bordering buildings at Nabab Katara of Nimtali in Old Town.
Saddam Hossain, manager of the Shefali Bakery just opposite the electric pole with the transformer, however, said he had seen smoke billowing out of the chemical shop and the transformer exploded within minutes.
The fire fighters could hose down the flames about 12:00am, the Fire Service and Civil Defence director general, Brigadier General Abu Nayeem Mohammed Shahidullah, told New Age on Thursday.
Twenty-three fire engines from eight fire stations, local administration, army, police and Rapid Action Battalion personnel, Red Crescent volunteers along with the local residents, carried out the rescue operation overnight.
Fire fighters entered most of the houses that were burnt during the rescue operation and recovered the bodies from houses on holdings 43 to 48.
The 14 independent engineering brigade of the Bangladesh Army joined the operation about 2:30am on Friday.
Abu Nayeem formally called off the rescue operation about 5:00am in consultation with the local people and experts, claiming that there were no bodies in the debris. ‘But a small fire unit was deployed to assist the local people.’
The Dhaka deputy commissioner, Muhibul Haque, said the death toll had hit 117 till Friday evening and the figure is inclusive of a woman, a child and a man who died in hospital on Friday. One hundred and two bodies were handed over to the families. Six bodies were kept in the Mitford Hospital morgue and nine in the DMCH morgue till the evening. The 15 bodies are yet to be identified.
The fire service and civil defence, however, said they had pulled out 93 bodies from the debris and almost all of them could be identified. Unofficial sources again put the death toll at 97 till Friday evening.
Executive magistrate Mohammad Alamin, who handed over the bodies to the families, about 10:30pm on Friday said 92 bodies had so far been handed over and eight other bodies, yet to be identified, remained in the morgues of Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Mitford Hospital.
The district administration has given Tk 20,000 against each of the victims to the families to bear the funeral expenses, Muhibul said.
‘Tk 10,000 has been given to each of the injured admitted to hospital. Tk 20,000 will be given against each of the victims to the families for rehabilitation,’ he said.
Dhaka Medical College Hospital resident surgeon HA Nazmul Hakim said may died because of excessive heat and smoke caused by the burning chemicals after a baker’s which had several large gas burners had caught fire.
An engagement programme was going in a house in one of the buildings, said a local resident, who was standing there when the fire broke out.
‘Most of the family members but the bride and the groom died in the fire. The bride, Runa Akhtar, and the groom, Jamil Reza, were in a beauty parlour at the time,’ Akbar Hossain, a resident of the area, said on Friday.
Local people said most of the buildings housed shoe factories on the ground floors and the chemicals helped the fire to spread fast. And on both sides of the alley, there were wholesale shops of scrap iron and waste papers.
Mohammad Ripon, a resident of Nabab Katara in the Azimpur graveyard on Friday said he had asked Mohammad Faruque, another resident of the area, not to open chemical shop and set up a warehouse, which helped the fire to spread fast, in the crowded area. ‘But he did not listen to me.’
Faruque lost 12 of his family in the fire. He and his brothers Guljar and Didar survived.
Residents of the Nimtali area, crammed with buildings leaving not enough area for emergency services, said the multi-storey buildings were haphazardly constructed and they had no fire escapes or fire safety measures.
Nazimuddin, a resident of the area who pulled out 50 of the bodies from the debris, said the society elders had submitted application to the government office concerned for relocation of small plastic and shoemaking factories that need to use chemicals and imposition of a ban on the establishment of warehouses to store chemicals. ‘The fire spread fast because of the chemicals kept in the warehouse.’
Nazmul, a resident of the area, echoed Nazimuddin. He said, ‘I have never seen volcanic eruption but on television screen. Burning chemicals flowing down the alley reminded me of such eruption.’
The Dhaka City Corporation chief executive officer, Abul Kalam Azad, told New Age the corporation would cancel the trade licences of small factories situated in crowded areas of Old Town.
‘Thursday’s fire left us with no option but to save the lives and property of the Old Town residents by cancelling the licence of such factories. We cannot afford another such accident,’ he said.

Nat’l Mourning Day today

National flag will fly at half-mast today as Bangladesh continued mourning those who died in the devastating fire in the Old Town of Dhaka on Thursday night.
The government announced National Mourning Day today for the victims of the Nimtali blaze and Begunbari building collapse. Special prayers will be offered at mosques and other places of worship across the country.
Special prayers were offered at mosques, temples and churches on Friday seeking blessings for the departed souls.
Cross section of people and different socio-political organisations, including president Zillur Rahman, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia expressed deep shock at the loss of lives in the Old Town fire.
The prime minister and the leader of the opposition visited the people admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital with burn injuries.
President Zillur Rahman, in a condolence message, prayed for the salvation of the departed souls and also for the early recovery of the injured. He also expressed his deepest sympathy for the bereaved families.
The prime minister visited the hospital at about 11:00am cancelling all her scheduled programmes and stayed there for about half an hour enquiring about the treatment of the injured.
Earlier, in a condolence message she expressed deep shock at the huge casualties and sympathised with the survivors of the Nimtali tragedy.
She announced that the government would bear all costs for treatment of the injured people and that the victims would be rehabilitated.
Opposition leader Khaleda Zia visited the hospital early on Friday, mourned the dead and checked on the treatment of the injured and demanded compensation for the families of the dead.
Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad, along with other leaders of his party, also visited the injured at the hospital shortly after Hasina left. Ershad demanded compensation for the victims.
The home minister, food minister, health minister, mayor of Dhaka City Corporation, state minister for LGRD and cooperatives and top government officials visited the spot.
The organisations which gave condolence messages included Zaker Party, Bangladesh Students’ Union, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Gana Forum, Sammilita Sangskritik Jote, 11-Party Alliance, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, Jatiya Ganatantrik League, Bangladesh Nari Mukti Andolan and Workers Party of Bangladesh.

An unusual day for grave-diggers

It was quite unusual for Azeemuddin, who has been digging graves in the Azimpur graveyard for 20 years. He said he had never seen so many burials in a single day in the place.
Pallbearers, many walking down all the way from Nimtali amid rain, after the juma prayers on Friday carried coffins, one after another, of the people who died in the fire that broke out in eight buildings on Nazimuddin Road in Dhaka Thursday night. At least 117 were killed in the fire.
Passers-by found it hard to hold their tears.
Grave-diggers had dug 108 graves since the morning till 2:00pm, Azeemuddin said. ‘Thirty grave-diggers worked digging graves since morning in the east of the graveyard. After the war for independence, I have never seen such a large number of in a single day.’
The main roads leading to the graveyard from the Plassey crossing had been closed for some time after the juma prayers.
The Dhaka mayor, Sadeq Hossain, who attended the funeral said the city dwellers had never seen so many bodies being buried in a day at Azimpur.
The Chhati Mosque, close to the place where the fire broke out, has never witnessed so many funerals at a time, said Shabbir, a neighbour of the victims.
The entire Old Town, which is a closely knit society, was in a pall of gloom with special prayers in mosques after the juma prayers for the departed souls.
There is hardly anyone left to console the bereaved families as everybody had lost someone.
A birthday and a death
Staff Correspondent

Mohammad Ripon could not celebrate the first birthday of his nephew, Rabid, as the child died in the fire at Nimtali in Old Town minutes before he could cut the cake his uncle had bought for him.
Rescuers found dead the child and his mother in a tin-shed house at 153, Nabab Katara, one of the six houses that burnt in the fire in which a total of 117 people were killed. Rabid’s mother had closely held him to save the child from the fire.
Thursday was Rabid’s first birthday and his uncle Ripon, who works with a tailoring shop at Ramna Bhaban, headed home with a birthday cake. As he neared Nimtali, he saw the crowd and the fire.
Jostling his way through the crowd, he got to the house about 9:45pm but could not proceed further as the entire area was in flames.
He later found all of the family — the child’s mother Munni Begum, 40, aunts Ramiza Begum and Monwara Begum, sister Lovely Begum, 20, and the little Rabid — had died in the fire.
Ripon and his 16-year-old brother Swapan survived as they were out of home.
Ripon could not hold his tears receiving his brother-in-law Rezaul Karim’s phone call from Dubai but failed to tell him he was in the Azimpur graveyard.

Patients groan lying on
burn unit floor

The Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital is struggling to cope with a large number of burn patients after Thursday night’s devastating fire at Nabab Katara of Nimtali in the Old Town of Dhaka.
Physicians said the 50-bed unit is overburdened by patients as around 300 burn patients, including 250 old ones are taking treatment there.
‘Most of the patients are lying on the floor…We are facing serious problems in attending such a large number of patients,’ HA Nazmul Hakim, resident physician of the unit’s casualty block said.
Of the 43 patients from Nimtali fire incident admitted to the burn and plastic surgery unit, three died till Friday evening while two others in critical condition were undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit, Hakim said.
Fourteen others admitted to the DMCH with serious respiratory problems have been shifted to the Combined Military Hospital, he said.
‘Leaves of the staff, including physicians of burn and plastic surgery unit, and casualty and emergency unit of the DMCH have been cancelled until further notice to handle the large number of patients,’ hospital director brigadier general Shahidul Haque Mallik said.
Hakim said the authorities had called in 17 physicians from other departments of the hospital to attend the patients at the burn unit.
The hospital authorities also said that there was no shortage of essential drugs for treatment of the burn patients.
The water-based cream Silver Sulphadiazine USP, commonly used for the burn patients, is available in the stores of the hospital and can also be found in the market, project director of the burn and plastic surgery unit Samanta Lal Sen said adding that the drug was produced by a local pharmaceutical company.
A number of organisations have come forward with assistance for treatment of the people injured in the Nimtali blaze, said brigadier Mallik.
‘We have received medicines from various government organisations, including the army and the navy. Medicines needed for treatment of burn patients are also available at the hospital,’ he added.
Physicians of the unit said although the cream commonly used in the treatment for burn injuries is not very costly, a lengthy treatment increases the expenditure.
‘Cost of burn treatment is a little bit high as burn patients have to stay in hospital for quite a long time and also need other drugs for treatment,’ unit’s assistant professor Mrinal Kanti Das said

(Collected from new age)

No comments:

Post a Comment