Uttara Gas Fire

After two sons, now father dies

A relative of Mohammad Shahnawaz in tears as another relative tries to console him at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Shahnawaz, who was burnt in a fire at his Uttara home on Friday, died yesterday. His two sons were killed in the incident and his wife is in a critical condition. Photo: Star

The father of the five-member family that got burnt in a fire at an Uttara flat on Friday died of his injuries yesterday, raising the death toll from the incident to three.

Mohammad Shahnawaz, 50, a maintenance engineer of the US embassy in Dhaka, breathed his last at 5:55pm at the burn unit of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), said resident surgeon Partha Sankar Pal.

He had 95 percent of his body burnt.

On Friday, his sons Sharleen bin Nawaz, 15, and Jian bin Nawaz, 1, died of their burn injuries.

Shahnawaz's wife Sumaiya Khanom with 90 percent of her body burnt was undergoing treatment at the burn unit, said doctors there. She lost her eyesight and was in a critical condition.

Their other son nine-year-old Jarif bin Nawaz had six percent of his body burnt. He was released from hospital and is now with his relatives.

The fire broke out around 6:30am when Shahnawaz lit the gas stove to make tea in their rented flat on the top floor of a seven-storey building. Sumaiya was praying and their sons were asleep. The fire engulfed the flat within a minute, giving them no time to escape, said relatives quoting the injured.

The family had just moved into the flat. They were supposed to be at the flat from March 1 but since the flat was new and with no tenants, they moved in on February 20, police said quoting the building owner Delwar Hossain.

Ali Hossain Khan, officer-in-charge of Uttara Pashchim Police Station, said they questioned Delwar at his home.

Quoting Shahnawaz's neighbours, the OC said the neighbours smelt gas and had alerted Shahnawaz about leaking gas. Shahnawaz hired gas technicians but they could not find the leak.

The OC claimed that a team from Titas Gas yesterday visited the scene and found nothing wrong with the gas lines.

Police were probing whether the gas burners were left on, he said.

An unnatural death case was filed with Uttara Pashchim Police Station over the incident, he added.

Shahnawaz's wife Sumaiya was yet to know that her two sons had died, said Shahnawaz's brother Quamrul Ahasan. He said she asked about her children several times but family members told her that they were safe at a relative's house.

The bodies of the children were sent to their ancestral home in Barisal for burial, he added.

Ahasan further said although Jarif was out of danger, the child was suffering from the trauma.  

Shahnawaz's nephew Nazmus Shakib alleged that they had to wait for several hours at the DMCH burn unit to receive the bodies of two children on Friday.

Even though they had died in the afternoon, the family could receive the bodies around midnight after “enduring” several “legal processes”, he said.

Shakib said the victims' family was preparing to settle in the US before the tragedy struck.

US Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat visited the injured at DMCH yesterday afternoon, hospital sources said.

Samanta Lal Sen, national coordinator at National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, said the US ambassador expressed her shock over the incident and also asked about the condition of the injured.