Lost in despair | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:42 AM, December 14, 2019

Lost in despair

Families of Keraniganj fire victims in grief as dear ones suffer burns

With the heaviest of hearts, Nazrul Islam, a rickshaw puller from Kurigram’s Nageshwari upazila, was narrating how the Keraniganj factory fire had shattered all his dreams in the blink of an eye. 

Nazrul’s eldest son Shahajul Islam, 19, a student of Kurigram High School, is receiving treatment at the ICU of Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery with 70 percent of his body burnt in the Wednesday fire.

An indomitable Shahajul had been working at the factory alongside his studies to support the family, Nazrul said, adding that Shahajul was also saving money for his sister’s wedding.  

“Groaning at the hospital bed, he was telling me that he would never work at a factory again if he could recover this time and that he wants to continue his studies,” the father told The Daily Star yesterday as tears rolled down his face.

Some nine other victims of the incident have been kept on life support at the ICU of the institute while eight others have been admitted to the high dependency unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s (DMCH) burn unit.

All of them are in critical condition with 50 to 100 percent of their bodies burnt, doctors said. 

Samanta Lal Sen, national coordinator of the institute, said he had never experienced such extent of burns in a single fire incident.

“I have witnessed many fire tragedies in my career, but never received this kind of patients with severe burns in a single fire incident.

“All the injured have inhalation burns with third-degree burn injury in their body,” said Dr Samanta, who has been in this profession for decades.

After the incident, 31 patients with severe burns were admitted to DMCH’s burn unit. Twelve of them died on Thursday. 

Relatives of the fire victims demanded stern action against the factory owner for failing to ensure fire safety and a better work environment.

“My husband would not have suffered so severely had there been another exit of the building,” said Nazma Begum, wife of factory-in-charge Firoz Islam, 38, who was admitted at the ICU of Sheikh Hasina institute.

Around 300 people worked in two shifts at Prime Pet and Plastic Industries in Keraniganj’s Chunkutia area. Around 150 people, including many women, were working when the fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, one of the injured Durjoy Das was taken to his village home in Keraniganj on Thursday after doctors said there was no hope for survival.  

He is still alive and we have brought him here so that he can breathe his last at home, said his father Mintu Das. 

A poor Mintu demanded government assistance that other injured or dead in the incident are receiving.

‘CHECK DOCUMENTS BEFORE PROVIDING UTILITIES’

Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Abu Saleh Mohammad Ferdous Khan yesterday called upon the utility service providers, including gas and electricity suppliers, to check necessary documents before providing their services to any factory.

Different government bodies including Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, fire service and Department of explosives are trying to identify the non-compliant, unapproved factories to stop recurrence of such incidents, the DC said after visiting the spot. 

Replying to a query, Ferdous Khan said, “We all would look into how the factory was set up and operate when it was not supposed to be here.” 

He, however, tried to avoid when a journalist asked about negligence by the authorities in monitoring. 

Meanwhile, Keraniganj upazila administration yesterday sealed off a warehouse-cum-factory of Prime Pet.

Besides, four factories were sealed off in different areas under Keraniganj upazila since Thursday as the authorities failed to show valid documents, said Keraniganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Amit Deb Nath.

“If the factory authorities can show documents, then, we will take further decision in this regard,” the UNO told reporters.

Talking to The Daily Star, several locals in Chunkutia area said they were in fear as many factories were still in operation in the nearby residential areas. 

“There are several dying and washing factories in the area which are polluting the air and water. The government should ban these factories and shift them to elsewhere,” Jahangir Alam Sarker, a resident of the area told The Daily Star. 

“In the past, we were threatened by the owners and their goons when whenever we raised our voice. We did not even dare to complain against them,” he said. 

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