Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  
Front Page

Fire guts 450 shacks in Pallabi, 10 hurt

A fire completely gutted over 450 shanties and around 150 handlooms and left at least 10 people injured at a quarter of stranded Pakistanis at city's Pallabi area early yesterday.

Firefighters said the blaze originated from a short circuit at a shanty in the north-west corner of Non-Local Relief Camp at Paris Road in section No. 11 at about 1:30am.

Some of the camp dwellers, however, said the fire could be an act of sabotage by certain quarter that in the past had attempted on several occasions to force them to leave the area. In the last six months, there had been two more incidents of fire but those could not wreak havoc.

Fire Brigade and Civil Defence officials estimated the losses in yesterday's fire, which rendered about 2,500 people homeless and a few hundred weavers unemployed, to be worth over Tk 1.5 crore.

Of the injured, Mohammad Rafiq, 40, his wife Fatema Begum, 30, and Momena Begum were admitted to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital for treatment.

"I awoke to the cries of my neighbours and found a blaze approaching my house fast. Me and my wife rushed out of the slum at once to take our five children to safety," said Mohammad Osman who has been living in the camp for the last 33 years.

"Except for the lungi and shirt I'm wearing nothing is left. I've lost everything. I don't know how am I going to manage the next meals for my family?" wailed Osman.

Most of the slum dwellers like Osman have lost almost everything they owned. Many of them in the hope that they could still retrieve some of the belongings were rummaging through the smouldering remains.

Locals alleged that two units of firefighters reached the spot about half an hour after they had been informed of the fire.

"They could not start the operation right away as one unit did not have water in the tank while the other forgot to bring fire hose," said Rezaul Karim, a local weaver. The firefighters went back to grab water and pipe and came again, but by that time the slums were completely gutted, he added.

An official of Mirpur Fire Station on condition of anonymity claimed they managed to get to the scene in a few minutes.

Thirteen fire-fighting units from Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Kurmitola, Tejgaon, Polashi and the headquarters worked together and doused the fire at about 3:30am, he added.

He said the dwellers instead of helping caused chaos and disorder that interfered with the firefighters' effort.

Costly Benarashi sarees glimmer through fire leaping wildly at a stranded Pakistanis' camp in the city's Pallabi yesterday where the clothes are made. PHOTO: STAR