The Chawkbazar fire, which has killed at least 70 people so far, is one of the deadliest fire outbreaks in the country’s history. A similar fire incident took place in June 2010, in which 123 people died and 50 others sustained burns. It was at Nimtoli, a crowded locality in Old Dhaka, where a plastic factory was responsible for the quick spread of fire. After the Nimtoli fire, the government was urged to relocate chemical warehouses from old Dhaka to Keraniganj, but little has been done, although nine years.
have passed. Old Dhaka has a large number of chemical, plastic, electrical goods factories and printing presses. Many feel that Wednesday’s fire at Chawkbazar is another reminder to the Sheikh Hasina government to relocate all chemical warehouses and plastic and electrical goods factories from the old part of the town.
According to several eyewitnesses and survivors, the fire began after a big blast at Chawkbazar, a hub in Old Dhaka, around 10:40pm on Wednesday. According to the fire service, the fire started around 10.45pm in a four-storey building, owned by Wahid Chairman, and quickly spread to four nearby buildings.
The ground floor of the building was rented out to shops, while the second floor was used as a warehouse for toiletries and various plastic products. The top two floors were residential units.
There were also several gas cylinders on the road in front of adjacent restaurants. It is suspected that the fire broke out when a gas cylinder exploded in a restaurant.
After the fire outbreak, ministers and top ruling party leaders visited the site. They told the media that chemical warehouses would be relocated from old Dhaka.
Talking to reporters, Awami League (AL) general secretary Obaidul Quader said the Chawkbazar fire was a wake-up call for the government. “The government will form an investigation committee and we’ll take measures to prevent repeat of such incidents in future,” he added.
Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, said the government stood by the victims in the 2010 fire and never played the role of a silent spectator. It will also take measures to prevent the repeat of such incidents and rehabilitate the victims.
Visiting the blaze site, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the media that the government will assist Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) to remove all hazardous warehouses from old Dhaka to prevent any repeat of such deadly fire outbreaks.
Talking to The Independent, industries minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said relocation or removal of chemical warehouses was not possible overnight. The government was trying to shift them, but it would take time. “I have grown up in old Dhaka. I know old Dhaka well. All here are businessmen. They don’t want to go anywhere from old Dhaka. But we are trying to shift them to another place,” he added.
The minister, however, claimed that the Chawkbazar fire was not similar to the one at Nimtoli, as the Chawkbazar fire had been caused by a cylinder blast.