This filling station in Mohakhali had no buckets of water or sand. The bucket on the top was placed by the security guard running towards the stand with another bucket of sand after seeing the photographer trying to take the picture. The bottom two buckets had no bottoms. Photo: Anisur Rahman
Most of the filling stations in the city lack adequate fire safety measures while the government is relaxed about forcing the stations follow safety rules.
It is also turning a blind eye to the fact that filling station are being built too close to each other in the capital.
Filling station owners, requesting not to be named, said most of the city filling stations do not have adequate safety measures for getting licences from authorities, Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, Fire Service and Civil Defence Department and the Department of Explosives.
An official of fire service and civil defence said a filling station requires several fire-safety requirements to fulfil before getting their no-objection certificate. The requirements include four CO2 fire extinguishers, four dry chemical powder fire extinguishers with a capacity of six kg, two pairs of boots, two pairs of rubber gloves, fire safety training of filling station employees, no-smoking signs and another sign with the telephone number of the fire service in large letters in a noticeable place.
For petrol filling stations, six metal medium-size red buckets, with fire written on them in white, full of dry sand must be kept hanging at the station, he said.
For larger filling stations 30kg of chemical powder for dousing fire must be kept on a cart.
Besides, two battery-powered backup lights are also required.
The number of requirements increases with the severity and location of hazards, he said.
During a visit to a number of filling stations in the city, The Daily Star found that most of the stations had fire extinguishers but many of them had exceeded the re-filling date and the stations did not have the mandatory number of fire extinguishers.
The powder used for dousing fire of a flammable substance was not seen in many filling stations.
Buckets of dry sand, mandatory for every petrol pump and gas filling stations, were also missing in many filling stations while in some the sand was wet.
Most of the filling stations have inadequate "no smoking" signs while in some there were no such signs.
There are 2,700 filling stations in Bangladesh and 461 of them are in Dhaka division and 198 in the capital. Among them 17 are CNG only filling stations, said President of Petrol Pump Owners Association Nazmul Haque.
Shadhin Bangla Filling Station at 72, A Shahid Tajuddin Sarani has five extinguishers and only two empty buckets was found there.
The filling stations have no other fire safety equipment apart from a few warning signs for smoking.
Mihir Akhand, supervisor of the filling station, said their buckets were full with sand, but were used at the May 4 fire at the Amam Enterprise at Shaheed Tajuddin Sarani near Mohakhali inter-district bus terminal.
Southeast Automobiles at Shahid Tajuddin Sarani at Mohakhali had five extinguishers but all them were out of order.
The pumps also did not have any buckets of sand.
No other fire safety measures were seen except some warning for not smoking.
Ismail Hossain of the station said they did not change or recharge the fire extinguishers since they started the filling station in 2002.
President of Petrol Pump Owners Association Nazmul Haque said the petrol pump and CNG filling station in the city have been constructed violating the guidelines of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation. According to the guideline, there must be at least two km distance between one pump and another in the city while six km distance outside of the capital.
The filling stations located in the city in most of the cases do not follow the guidelines, he said.
There are 17 filling stations within a half a km between Mohakhali square and Gulshan link road and 11 of them are now operational, he said.
Setting up filling stations in close proximity puts them under fire risks, he said.
The filling stations owners also has to maintain a certain distance between the fuel reservoirs and the fuel dispersing units, he said, adding that if stations do not maintain the distance it puts filling stations under greater risk.
In many cases filling stations do not follow these rules, said an owner of a filling station.
There are thousands of fuel-carrying lorries in the country but most of the lorries do not have any fire extinguisher, mandatory in those vehicles, said a petrol pump owner, adding that even if some lorries keep them, they are usually inoperative.
Chairman of Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation Anowarul Karim said even though there is a guideline restricting filling stations in close proximity, it has been relaxed to encourage setting up of CNG filling stations in the city.