55-year-old Shamsul Alam Liton and his wife Amena Alam looked shell-shocked. They stood speechless and kept staring at the smoke billowing out from the market which housed their clothing store.
The shop -- Hasan Enterprise -- that they owned for over the last 32 years has now been reduced to a pile of rubble.
It was situated on the first floor of the two-storey kitchen market building of the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) Market at Gulshan-1. The building caved in after a devastating fire broke out there early yesterday.
“We could not bring anything out of our shop. The market had already collapsed like a house of cards before we could reach here,” Amena, 45, told The Daily Star outside the market yesterday morning.
“All our savings and investment are gone overnight,” said the mother of four as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Around her, hundreds of people, including shop owners and their employees, had gathered along with fire fighters. Together, they were trying to douse with water the fire that had spread to the nearby building known as “Paka Market” around 7:30am.
Taslima Begum, another victim, looked totally stunned as well. She was too upset to talk.
“What can I say? This fire has made us bankrupt,” she said amid a great noise of generators used for the rescue operation.
Ignoring the danger, many shop owners dared to go inside the market to bring out whatever they could from their shops.
Aged around 60, Abdul Hannan, a scrap metal dealer, showed the correspondents a bundle of Tk 50,000 that got completely burnt inside his shop locker.
Many shop owners sat haplessly at the stairs of the “Paka Market” that houses more than 200 stores selling various items like clothes, cosmetics, baby products, furniture and groceries.
The entire DCC Market that housed around 550 shops was quite popular among customers as the products there were cheaper than in other markets in the area.
“One could get almost anything in the market. This is a great loss,” said a local, Suman Mandal, standing near some furniture brought outside the building.
The furniture and other products brought out from the market were kept on the adjacent streets, blocking the traffic.
Talking about the losses, traders said the market was a “wholesale hub” for many imported items. “Almost every shop had quite expensive products,” one of them said.
SM Talal Rezvi, chairman of a traders' association, Gulshan-1 DCC Paka Market Baboshai Samity, said the losses in the incident would amount to nearly Tk 200 crore.
“We could meet all our necessities by the income from our shop,” said Runa Ahmed of Reya Enterprise that used to sell imported garment products, footwear and ladies handbags.
She feared that she would alone face a loss of Tk 1.5 crore.
Runa said she used to sell products worth Tk 20,000 to Tk 25,000 every day.
“My husband is now in India to buy some products. He is very anxious and repeatedly asking me over phone about the condition here. But I could not tell him the real scenario,” she said around 3:00pm.
While Runa and her son Alif Istiaque were waiting in front of the “Paka Market”, some traders were trying to recover goods from the backside of the market through holes on its wall.
“I could see nothing. Smoke engulfed the entire market. All the products have been burnt to ashes,” Faizul Islam, who could go to the first floor, said.
One of his three stores was in the kitchen market that caved in. The others -- music store Soul Touch and electronics shop Snigdha Electronics -- are at the “Paka Market”.
He said his shops had insurance coverage until 2005. Later, he did not maintain any insurance.
“We would have been in better position if we had insurance for our shops. I could recover nothing. Everything is gone,” said Altaf Hossain, a ladies footwear store owner.
He said he had taken a bank loan of Tk 5 lakh and that he had an insurance against it.
Faizul said easy and low interest loans would help the traders restart their businesses and overcome their losses.
Many traders, including Amena's husband Liton, have sought compensation from the authorities concerned to do businesses elsewhere.
“We have no capital and no means of earning our livelihood,” Liton said.