Towering inferno at Banani: Message from Nayeem’s resolute eyes
Assumedly there are amply conversant and well-informed persons among the owners and occupants of the high-rise F R Tower where some one thousand people worked in the posh upmarket locality at Banani in the capital; be that as it may it cannot but defy common sense how after a massive fire raced through all the floors of the building killing 26 people and injuring some more.
Three Oscars winner Hollywood movie ‘Towering Inferno’ starring the great Paul Newman and Steve McQueen —which earned a nomination for the Academy Award for the Best Picture and was the highest-grossing film premiered in 1974 —was also released in Dhaka in 1979. It is possible that neither the tower’s owners, nor its designers and structural engineers have watched that admired motion picture; but how could they ignore the essential and indispensable textbook lessons on fundamental safety code while designing the 22- storied building?
After the devastating fire the damaged building is unsafe for use now as cracks have developed on its columns and slabs, the BUET Prof Ansary said. His team has set a timeframe of 150 days to conduct a detailed engineering assessment. The building might be made usable after the assessment if all fire safety measures and the compliance of the building code are ensured,” he said. “There was no staircase separated from the main building. Even that is a violation. They have to set up separate fire exits beforehand,” he said. The decision regarding the illegally erected top floors will depend on the findings of the DEA, he said while replying to a query on whether they would recommend breaking the floors. “There were fire safety equipment but there were no trained staff members to use those…the building authorities never conducted a fire drill either,” he said, adding that such incident will recur despite having modern fire safety equipment if the staffers were not trained.
On 21 February a blaze killed 69 persons at Chawkbazar Churihatta where inflammable chemicals caught fire — which happened after 8 (eight) years of the devastating Nimtoli blazing inferno of 3 June 2010 in downtown Dhaka that killed 124 people. Now it is apparent that the stakeholders could not or did not learn any lesson from the past mistakes. This we say because it was so to speak a repeat performance of the deadly Nimtoli tragedy that originated in chemical warehouses.
The Churihatta fire instantly harks back to the Nimtoli fire because of its striking resemblance. Originating from an electrical transformer explosion, the fire was presumed to be fanned by chemicals as well as combustibles stored in shops, and the narrow lanes of the densely populated residential area made it hard for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.
The injured Nimtoli fire victims were treated at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, which had to struggle hard to cope with the enormous number of patients suffering burns. Never in the history of Bangladesh so many died in a single accident nor had the city’s largest graveyard at Azimpur ever seen so many coffins at a time. Special prayers were held at mosques, temples, churches and pagodas all over the country for salvation of the departed souls. The heads of governments of several foreign countries, including the USA and Great Britain, instantly sent their condolences. Flags were kept at half-mast atop all official, semi-official buildings and establishments at home and Bangladeshi embassies abroad.
Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) Department said, there were about 80 fire accidents in Dhaka city last year alone. The deadliest fire in recent times was the Chawkbazar fire this year.The fire rules of Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC, 2006) says that chemicals must not be stored in a residential building. The detailed classification of these types of materials, method of merchandising, handling and processing are laid out in the updated version of the BNBC. The godown for these types of chemical should not only be separated from any type of occupancy, but these chemicals must also be stored in specially built warehouses with explosion venting facilities. In downtown Dhaka, there are about 20,000 warehouses and manufacturing facilities.
Security guard Jahangir and some others were lucky enough to hop from the roof of the tower upon the adjacent Ahmed Tower, but those who desperately jumped on other places didn’t survive the fatal fall. An overwhelming majority of thousands of people who gathered in the jampacked thoroughfare were onlookers—which added to the critical situation because in so doing they didn’t realize that they obstructed access roads for normal entry and functioning of the fire brigade vehicles and the firefighters.
Catastrophe unites people. Mahmudul Haque Jewel, a Titumir College student and Chhatra League leader, held a fire hosepipe up for some hours to facilitate water supply. A few others too were assisting the injured.
For his dedicated service and firm resolve teenager Nayeem Islam, son of underprivileged parents has made history. A fifth grader, Nayeem mounted up on a leaked hosepipe to stop the precious water from wasted on Kamal Ataturk Avenue at Banani. “I thought hundreds of people would die, but if I could hold the pipe, the fire service could use the water and save lives,” he said. Social media people showered praise on the child and people hugged him for his dedication. Hailing from Barishal he lives with his parents at Bou Bazar in Mohakhali’s Karail slum. His father sells coconut and mother works as a cook in a mess. Nayeem has a younger sister.
Rhymester Lutfor Rahman Riton has written a piece on Nayeem: —
“I was stunned to notice the child named Nayeem
in the midst of those numerous inquisitive bulls.
oh those dim-witted bulls, did you figure out and realise
What message did Nayeem’s resolute eyes convey?
Learn the concern for humanity from that youngster.
Nayeem, may you live long as dreams whirl on your eyes,
My dear child, remember that dreams whirl on your face.”