Years of investment, labour now ashes
Bit by bit, Mamunur Rahman grew his business over the last 10 years from almost nothing. Never once he thought he would have to see the result of his years of labour and investment go in flames and turn into ashes.
But that's exactly what happened on Sunday.
“I have nothing left. My condition is like a street beggar now,” said Mamun, whose two footwear stores at Bashundhara City Shopping Complex were gutted in the fire.
He invested Tk 70 lakh in the stores -- ANZ Footwear 1 and 2 -- at block C on level-6 of the mega mall. All is gone.
The middle-age man is so broke that he is not in a mood to talk. So details about himself and his family could not be gathered. But before declining to speak further, he said: “My whole family depends on the income from the shops. Now, I don't know how I will earn my living, pay house rent and bear the educational expenses of my children.”
He then broke down.
But this is the story of not only Mamun. About 100 other shop owners at the same block, whose businesses have been fully or partially damaged, are in a fix.
The popular mall has more than 2,325 shops of different kinds of products ranging from mobile phones, apparels, electronics, footwear and leather goods to cosmetics and jewellery.
Of those, around 100 footwear and leather goods shops located at the block C of level-6, where the fire broke out, were most affected, said shop owners and security guards.
Mall authorities, however, said 11 shops were fully gutted and 20-21 partially damaged. And some others may have been affected because of the smoke from the fire and the water used to tame the flames.
The flames could not be fully doused before early hours yesterday, some 15 hours after the fire broke out around 11:00am on Sunday.
Firefighters said it took so long to extinguish the fire because many shops were closed and the flames seeped into the false ceilings, which made it difficult for the firemen to spray water.
Firemen and Bashundhara City's own staff were cleaning the market yesterday. The mall is expected to open tomorrow.
About the loss, however, many shop owners were still in the dark.
Yesterday, most shop owners and their sales assistants were waiting in front of the mall. They were not allowed in, and were getting information about their shops from security guards, fire service members and officials of the shopping complex.
“We have nothing left. Everything has turned into ashes and garbage,” said Monir Hossain, owner of three footwear stores on level-6.
“Ceilings are falling down due to heat. Firefighters broke open the shutters of the shops to douse the fire. Piles of burnt shoes are scattered here and there,” said Enamul Haque, who owns Green Leather Craft.
The Daily Star has spoken with over a dozen shop owners who sought financial assistance from the mall authorities and the government to restart their business.
The owners, who have bank loan, are in a double trouble.
Kamrul Islam, proprietor of Feet Fair on level-6, is one of them.
“We started our business a couple of years ago selling land at our village home and taking loans from bank. Our loans are yet to be repaid. By this time, our whole investment is burned down,” said Kamrul, who along with his brother had six footwear shops.
They invested around Tk 1.15 crore.
Talking to reporters, Jasim Uddin, head of marketing of the shopping mall, said the authorities were not supposed to provide any financial support. But a final decision in this regard would be made later.
MA Hannan Azad, president of Bashundhara Shop Owners Association, told The Daily Star that the market authorities might only arrange for the repair of affected stores to help resume business.