Bangladesh's recurrent fire tragedies: Will we ever learn our lessons?

After almost every disaster we see that our leaders come in front of the media to strongly express their grief and form an even stronger investigation committee. But the investigation committee's 'strong' report somehow gets lost in the dark abyss of the Bermuda Triangle.

Farabi Bin Zahir Mar 12, 2024
Fire incident at the multi-storied Green Cozy Cottage building on Bailey Road in the capital Dhaka

The tragic fire incident at the multi-storied Green Cozy Cottage building on Bailey Road in the capital Dhaka casts a somber shadow over Bangladesh's current modernisatiion drive. The entire nation is grappling with the repercussions of this devastating fire. In this densely populated country of nearly 180 million people, there is scarcely a heart that has not trembled with fear and trepidation over this incident. 

The blaze has affected every individual across the nation, leaving an indelible mark on the collective consciousness. Regrettably, such incidents are not unprecedented. An analysis of recent events reveals a pattern where this formidable adversary has struck with alarming frequency. 

However, it is crucial to assess the extent of our efforts in addressing the situation. Have we ever contemplated the adequacy of our capabilities in managing fire disasters? Why does this calamity persistently reoccur in our lives? The time has come to delve into these inquiries and find the answers.

After almost every disaster we see that our leaders come in front of the media to strongly express their grief and form an even stronger investigation committee. But the investigation committee's 'strong' report somehow gets lost in the dark abyss of the Bermuda Triangle. It is even more laughable that after every disaster we get to know that the disaster happened due to non-compliance of rules. It seems that there is no possibility of breaking the deep slumber of our regulatory bodies. After the disaster has occurred they believe there was irregularity in that place. They do not have even a shred of information about irregularities beforehand! There is no disaster where authorities have not violated this norm. If we analyze history, we see this norm in the case of the BM Container Depot fire disaster in Sitakunda, the Chawkbazar fire in Old Dhaka or the FR Tower fire in New Dhaka.

Rules not followed

BM Container Depot in the Bhaiyar Char area of Sitakunda is situated on 24 acres of land. The establishment mainly works with goods exports. Containers are prepared here and sent to the Chattogram port for the export of goods. The establishment works with the export of 38 types of commodities. Conditions have been set regarding how much equipment can be there in an ICD, and what measures need to be taken to ensure risk management and safety as per ICD policy. The policy formulation committee also recommended suspension of the license if these conditions are not met. It has been known from media sources that although there was a modern firefighting system, the establishment did not quite abide by that. Hydrogen peroxide-laden containers were behind the Sitakunda BM Container Depot fire disaster that killed over 40 people and resulted in the loss of export goods estimated at over 200 crore taka. The Department of Explosives says they did not approve the storage of flammable chemicals like hydrogen peroxide.

It is surprising how they openly stored flammable chemicals like hydrogen peroxide without approval. Where was the Department of Explosives all these days?  Or will we have to wait for another disaster to know about subsequent illegal storage?

In the same way, an attempt has been made to evade the main responsibility by stating one thing after the Chawkbazar tragedy - that the buildings in Old Dhaka are very old and it has become difficult to do many things as the area has become dilapidated. But when the incident happened in the affluent Banani area, there was no longer any possibility of covering up with lame excuses. After the tragedy, it was revealed that building rules were not followed in constructing the building. There was no escape route to exit the building during an emergency. There was a 24-inch passage on every floor. On every floor, the passage was blocked in a way that there was no chance of easily exiting through that passage. There was no firefighting equipment on any floor. Though a couple of fire extinguishers were found, those were not functional. And the authorities did not fail to repeat the same old story to the citizens. 

But we know approval from almost 13 departments including environment, firefighting etc. is required to get the building plan of even a 10-story building passed. We only got to know that rules were not followed but the role of those 13 departments remained in the dark. How did it become 23 floors without approval for 18 floors? Regarding these 5 unapproved floors, why did the authorities remain silent for so long? 

Fixing accountability

Another noticeable thing is that in the Banani area where this tower was located, several other towers stand cheek by jowl. Each of those towers is so dilapidated that if one catches fire, the fire will easily spread to the other towers quickly. Naturally, the question arises, have proper rules been followed in constructing those other buildings in the area? Are there any unapproved floors in those buildings? Or will we have to wait for another fire disaster to know the answers to these questions?

Along with accountability, it is also time to focus on another aspect - capability. Do we have the necessary capability to deal with fire disasters? We must not forget that our country houses important projects like the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. Is the capability of our country's fire service enough to ensure the fire safety of projects like Rooppur? But it is also true that capability needs to be increased at governmental, non-governmental, and even individual levels. It has to be remembered that losses from fire disasters affect every level equally from the individual level to the national level.

The government must focus on modernizing the fire service. Proper equipment and training for firefighters need to be arranged. Expecting world-class service from firefighters without providing the necessary equipment and training is almost like asking someone to cut trees with their hands and feet tied. The more modernized the fire service is, the lower the amount of loss and damage from fire disasters. Along with the national level, awareness at non-governmental and even individual level is equally important. While renting any building, establishments must ensure that the building has the necessary capability to prevent fire disasters. Even at the individual level, while renting a house this should be ensured seriously. It has to be remembered that when building owners are confronted with this kind of accountability from tenants, they will be forced to adopt necessary measures for their own good. When there are necessary measures in a building to prevent fire disasters, the amount of loss and damage from such disasters will be greatly reduced.

The situation demands not an expression of helplessness, but a concerted effort to enhance capabilities. It is imperative to instill accountability, from the national level to individual responsibility. Without the enforcement of appropriate accountability through legal measures and the augmentation of disaster management capabilities, the recurrent threats posed by fire disasters will persist, claiming additional lives and extinguishing the flickering flames of human hope.

(The writer is a Dhaka-based columnist and activist. Views are personal. He can be contacted at

Post a Comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Thu, 03/14/2024 - 03:51
Мечтая обновить дизайн своей гостиной,
я в итоге выбрал на установку натяжного потолка.
Мой выбор пал на 'Руки Мастера', за их качественный подход и рекомендациям друзей.
Их бригада поразила меня быстротой
выполнения и вниманием к деталям.
Результаты превзошли все мои ожидания!
Ознакомьтесь с их предложениями здесь:
Thu, 03/14/2024 - 04:16
Hi there to all, since I am truly eager of reading this webpage's post to be
updated daily. It carries good stuff.
How to get ozempic prescribed for weight loss
Fri, 03/15/2024 - 01:54
Thanks , I have recently been searching for info about this
subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far.

But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you sure about
the source?
Farabi Bin Zahir
Mon, 03/18/2024 - 14:39
yes i am sure