At least eight more lives could be saved during Banani's FR Tower fire incident, had “over-enthusiastic” people let firefighters do their job, said Brig Gen Md Sazzad Hussain, director general of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (BFSCD) yesterday.
“There were so many people. We could not do our jobs. My earnest request to you all: please let us do our job,” he said, adding, “If we could bring down the ladder one more time, the death toll would have been 18 instead of 26. We could have rescued eight more people.”
He made the remarks at a programme organised to felicitate valiant firefighters. Brac organised the programme at Institution of Diploma Engineers.
“We rescue people risking our lives; if you [onlookers] do not cooperate, it is impossible for us to do our jobs,” he added.
On March 28, when the deadly fire ripped through the FR Tower, thousands of people poured on to the Kemal Ataturk Avenue, giving the firefighters a tough time while running the rescue operation.
Although some people were seen helping firefighters, most of them were mere onlookers. Some of them were standing there for hours taking selfies, capturing videos and streaming live on social media.
Sharing his experience, Maj AKM Shakil Newaz, director (operations) of fire service, said most high-rise buildings in the capital do not have in-built firefighting capacity.
“The root cause of increased fatalities is there is not in-built firefighting capacity at buildings. There were not enough staircases at FR Tower. On top of that, the existing staircase was not smoke-free. If it were so, I can guarantee, there would not be any casualties,” he said.
Shakil added that interior decoration of buildings is another major problem for firefighters, as the materials used are highly flammable. He suggested keeping enough fire security measures while decorating interiors.
BFSCD Director (Training) Lt Col SM Zulfikar Rahman suggested people to preserve contact numbers of their nearest fire station for prompt action.
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam asked people to change their attitude and follow rules to prevent fire incident.
At the programme, Brac handed over a Tk 4 lakh cheque to family members of deceased firefighter Sohel Rana. It also donated Tk 3 lakh to the BFSCD Trust.
Ten firefighters were also given letters of appreciation by the survivors of separate fire incidents.
They are Sohagchandra Karmakar, Bishnupada Mistri, Jakir Hossain, Kazi Sohag, Shahidul Islam, Jewel Mahmud, Mofizul Islam, Alamgir Hossain, Najir Hossian and Moktar Hossain.