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Slum blaze kills 11

Many injured, hundreds of makeshift homes razed

Slum blaze kills 11
A man searches for goods from his fire-gutted shanty (Photo by Uttom Stephan Rozario) reporter, Dhaka

November 19, 2012

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Six children and five women were burned to death and 25 people seriously injured in a huge blaze that destroyed a south Dhaka slum during the early hours of yesterday morning.

All the victims were trapped in a bathroom and kitchen and burned alive when they tried to take shelter from a fire that blazed out of control after a van full of fuel exploded at about 2:30 a.m. local time in the Hazaribagh area of the capital.

Around 16 fire service and civil guard units were dispatched to tackle the inferno which took to two hours to put it out after 700 shanties – mostly the homes of laborers – were destroyed with as many as 15,000 people affected.

Kazi Akram Hossain, 48, a laborer whose wife, daughter and grand-daughter all perished in the blaze, broke down numerous times as he described what happened yesterday.

“I never imagined such a tragedy would haunt me for the rest of my life. I don’t know for what sin Allah has punished me so severely,” he said.

Thousands of former slum dwellers have been left homeless with no shelter, minimal relief supplies and anxiety over what looks to be an even bleaker future.

Nazrul Islam, 32, a rickshaw puller, said he along with his wife and daughter narrowly escaped death, but all his belongings and only source of income are gone.

“We hurriedly ran out of the house when we found ourselves surrounded by huge flames. I’ve lost my rickshaw that I bought five months ago after saving for so long, but I’ve forgotten my loss because I’m still alive with my family,” he said.

Authorities have distributed food, clothes and medicines among those affected.

Dhaka South City Corporation has promised 10,000 taka ($122) for the families of each person that died and to those who have lost belongings and their homes.

Brig-General Abu Nayeem Muhammad Shafiullah of the civil guard said that the cause of the fire is still unknown but the main suspects are cigarettes or mosquito coils which may have ignited the van that exploded and caused the blaze to spread so quickly.

The civil guard has set up an investigation team.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said yesterday that she was shocked at the loss of lives and property in the fire.

“I deeply mourn and pray for the eternal peace of their departed souls and convey my sympathy to the bereaved families,” she said.

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