<%-- Page Title--%> News Notes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 153 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 7, 2004

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Of Lies and Empty Threats

After generating much hype and a widespread rumour, the Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul Jalil's infamous prediction fell flat on April 30. It was months ago, while giving an interview to the NTV, the beleaguered leader had predicted the fall of government by April 30. The government, on the other hand, driven by extreme paranoia and sheer arrogance, indiscriminately detained innocent civilians in the name of national security. The much talked about "trump card", which Jalil had vowed to use "in an appropriate time" did not see the light of day either.

When the deadline was almost over on April 29, a visibly unperturbed Jalil told the newsmen, "It may take little more time but when we'll play the trump card we'll achieve the goal."

People have already started comparing Jalil with the famous shepherd in Aesop's fable for creating a hoopla out of virtually nothing. It seems Jalil is enough to put the AL's half a century old history of democratic polity at a higher stake.

Keraniganj Slum Blaze

A devastating fire at a slum in Keraniganj on April 29 killed four children and razed all 285 tin-roofed houses on an acre, leaving about 2,000 people homeless. The two-hour blaze broke out from the earthen burner in a house close to the entry to the 29 year-old slum in Charkhejurbagh. According to newspaper reports, the fire started at around 10:00 am. Frightened residents including children trapped inside the enclosure, barely 10 metres from the riverbank, struggled to escape the fire but the small exit was not enough to allow scrambling crowds to come out in time.

Witnesses said to a Daily Star correspondent that the fire engulfed the entire slum in a few minutes, as a sudden blow of wind sent the flames spreading fast across the dense shanties. Firemen from Sadarghat arrived on the scene in speedboats and hired trawlers about half an hour after fire started. They tried to hose down the raging blaze with water jets from four pipelines linked with two boat-mounted water pumps as thousands looked on.

Nurul Islam, the deputy director of the Dhaka Division Fire Brigade, told The Daily Star, "If we had accessed the area by road we could have saved 90 per cent of the houses". The area was gutted to the ground and in the wake of the infernal fire, many women were seen searching through the rubble hoping to trace their children. Many said that they could not trace their children even three hours after the fire. A women named Salma lost both of her daughters in the fire. Another woman named Monwara went to the nearby construction site to crush brick leaving her two under-seven sons back home. She sought help of the firemen as her sons went missing.

Nazir Hossain is the owner of the land, who live off the rents from the shanties. Nazir used to collect 70,000 in house rent a month from the slum. Still, Mohammad Baby, his brother informed the investigating journalist that Nazir cannot afford compensation to the victims. "The local people will be providing shelter, food and drugs for the victims until the government comes up with relief," Baby said. Meanwhile the victim had to wait till 4 pm for food and no medical help was in sight by that time. The Daily Star correspondant did not see a single medical team at around 4:00 pm.

The dead are Bristy, 7, Akash,3, Sagor, 5. Many burnt patients were treated in Mitford Hospital.


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