A child was burnt alive and belongings of some 374 families were burnt to ashes as a devastating fire swept through a slum area at Jhilpar in the capital's Madhubagh yesterday.
The victim is two-and-a-half years old Sabuj. He was sleeping at home when the fire broke out around 8:15am.
Fire service officials suspected that the fire might have been started by an electrical short circuit. But some locals, however, said the blaze originated from a gas burner.
Flames engulfed many shanties, 14 shops and a rickshaw garage aided by a strong morning breeze, said witnesses.
It took 10 fire engines more than three hours to put out the flames.
Shathi, seven-year-old sister of Sabuj, was with her brother when the disaster struck.
“Seeing the fire, Shathi went out of his room and cried for saving her brother, but nobody dared to rescue the infant,” said the victim's aunt Moina, a next door resident of the siblings.
Sabuj's father Hasmat went to his village home in Haluaghat of Mymensingh two days ago, while his mother Modina, a domestic help, was at her workplace when the fire broke out.
Fire fighters recovered the charred body of Sabuj from the wreckage of the shanties, said Ramna police.
The casualty was not big as most of the tenants of the shanties, mostly garment workers, rickshaw pullers, domestic helps and CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers, were away from home.
Sabina Yasmin, a first-aid service provider, said they provided treatment to at least 25 people, but none of them were burnt. Later the injured were sent to a local community clinic in Moghbazar.
CNG-run auto rickshaw driver Ziaur Rahman said he was sleeping in his room when the fire broke out in the area. Hearing screams from people, he woke in bed and rushed outside of the room. He could not return there until 12:00 noon as fire fighters and volunteers restricted people from entering their houses.
“When I returned to my room, I only found the cooking pots. All the other belongings were burnt to ashes,” he mentioned.
Built with corrugated tin sheets, the shanties were two-storied. Each family lived there in a single room not bigger than 96 square feet.
The shanties were build on several plots of land owned by several people, said local residents.
Local authorities have made a nearby school into a temporary shelter for the victims.
Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya and Dhaka Deputy Commissioner Shaikh Yusuf Harun visited the area around 1:00pm and announced primary help for the victims.
The family of the deceased child will receive Tk20,000, while other families Tk3,000, 20-kilogram rice and a blanket each.