Dreams burnt to ashes | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 08, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:31 AM, June 08, 2021

Dreams burnt to ashes

Fire guts over 500 shanties at Mohakhali slum

Nazma Begum Swapna has spent half of her life living in Mohakhali's Sattola slum.

Living here since 1997, she has worked as a house help and built up her home with furniture and other necessary household items almost from scratch.

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In these 24 years at the slum, she has witnessed four fire hazards.

For the first three times, Swapna had managed to save all her valuables from the blaze.

But she wasn't as lucky this time around. The fire that broke out at the slum early yesterday originated just beside her home. She lost everything.

Swapna narrated the painful story while talking with this correspondent yesterday, when he visited the slum around 7am.

She was found screaming and crying standing beside the debris of her burnt down house. She was repeatedly trying to go inside the house, but volunteers were restraining her for her own good.

"Last night, I went to bed around 12:30am. Suddenly, I noticed there's a fire in my back room. I heard people screaming 'fire', and I knew I had to get out. I tried to save our valuables, but they were so hot I couldn't touch them," Swapna had pain her voice.

She and her husband Abul Kalam, a day-wage worker, knew they had to get out immediately. Let alone their furniture, they couldn't even get a hold of the gold ornaments. They even had to leave money behind.

"Just yesterday, I kept Tk 4,000 in the house as rent. The money has been burnt, along with a tola of gold," she said.

Like Swapna, Monu Mia, a cleaner of Dhaka North City Corporation, also lost everything to the fire.

"When the fire spread in the slum, I was at Karwan Bazar on duty," he told this correspondent. "By the time I reached the slum, all my furniture and other belongings were gutted," he said.

Monu had toiled hard to save Tk 70,000 to build a house at his ancestral village in Patuakhali, but that dream won't be realised now, he told The Daily Star.

Along with Monu and Swapna's, over 500 shanties were gutted in the fire, before 18 firefighting units brought it under control around 6:35am, Niaz Ahmed, deputy assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defense, told The Daily Star.

Meanwhile, some locals claimed the fire fighters were late to reach the spot. Asked, Niaz said they rushed to the spot as soon as they heard about the fire.

"We faced barriers on the way due to narrow corridors and people's gathering, as the residents of the shanties were busy bringing out their valuables from the burning houses," he said.

It also took time to douse the fire as the slum had turned into a gas chamber due to its illegal gas connections, the official said.

As of the filing of this report, fire service officials had not been able to ascertain a reason behind the fire's origination.

A five-member probe body has been formed in this regard with fire service deputy director Noor Hasan as chief, said officials.  

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