Huge Obstacles Faced by Fire Fighters
Saturday, 05 June 2010

Narrow lanes, the lack of available water and the indiscriminate establishment of factories and chemical warehouses with no independent fire fighting equipment have made it very difficult for fire fighters in old Dhaka, according to experts.

A huge fire in Old Dhaka's Nimtali area on Thursday has resulted in the deaths of at least 117 people.

"The narrow roads and lanes are the main obstacles to fire-fighting in the area. Fire service vehicles cannot reach the houses in case of a blaze," fire service and civil defence director general Abu Nayeem Mohammed Shahidullah told

Fire officials said there are more than 100 roads and lanes in Old Dhaka areas, already very densely populated, which a fire engine cannot pass.

The areas include MC Roy Lane, Ganaktuli, Hazaribagh, Kotwali, Sutrapur, Nazimuddin road, Agasadeque road, Siddiquebazar, Bangsal, Madankatra, Lalghbagh, Nawabkatra, Islambagh, Islampur, Tantibazar, Nayabazar, Shankharibazar, Lakshmibazar and English road.

Nayeem said the lack of water supplied through the WASA pipeline is another barrier to extinguishing fires.

"We found that pressure of water fell drastically when we tried to divert water through our hosepipes to the Nimtali fire. That's why it took such a long time to put out the blaze."

A resident of Nawabkatra, Hazi Rahmat Ali, added that. "In case of any fire incident outside Dhaka, people can try to extinguish it with water from nearby rivers, canals or ponds. But we cannot do that due to lack of water."

Environmentalists said ensuring the normal flow of water through recovering canals and ponds in Old Dhaka is urgently needed.

Architect Iqbal Habib, member secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon's (Environment Movement) urbanisation and governance committee, said: "We need to urgently implement the detailed area plan (DAP) of Dhaka to address this problem."

The roads and lanes have to be redesigned under the DAP, he said laying emphasis on introducing area-based disaster management systems.

Environmentalists and urban planners have long been demanding finalisation and implementation of the DAP, which has been pending approval since 2004.

Fire service officials also said that another problem is that the factories and warehouses established indiscriminately in Old Dhaka lack firefighting equipment.

The plastic and chemical factories are more prone to accidents, they said adding such factories in areas like Shaheed Nagar, Buckland Dam, Rayerbazar, Demra, Shyampur and Sutrapur often catch fire.

Iqbal said the small factories dealing with chemicals and other flammable materials need to be shifted immediately from Dhaka city.

According to the fire service department, nine members of a family died in a blaze at a Nazimuddin road house in 2008, and another six people died in a similar fire at Islambagh the same year. In another fire in 2006, goods worth Tk 200 million were damaged in a 2006 fire in Old Dhaka's Moulvibazar.


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