Fire Service and Civil Defence authorities identified two main markets of Rajshahi city as 'most vulnerable' to risk of fire incidents, as the markets have almost no fire safety facilities. However, within hours of hanging notices in this regard, they were removed by unknown persons.
The markets are Rajshahi Development Authority (RDA) Market near Shaheb Bazar and New Market, said Nurul Islam, deputy director of fire control department.
More than 10,000 people do business in the markets, while thousands visit for everyday shopping, according to officials.
The department staff hung several banners in front of the markets alerting people of its vulnerability.
The banners read, “This market is under severe risk of fire and all concerned are directed to remain careful while using the premises.” But the notices could not be seen after a few hours.
“The shops in the markets were built flouting construction rules and are too congested for any sort of rescue operation,” Nurul Islam said.
He said there are no nearby water sources, and the shops do not have fire extinguishers.
Rajshahi Development Authority jointly with RDA Market Businesspersons' Association reconstructed the market in 2005 without floating any tender, sources said.
Association leaders then began the construction following a design prepared by RDA engineers, but while constructing the three-storied building, they increased the number of shops as they wished, some businessmen alleged.
The same way, the design of New Market was also changed during its renovation in 2013.
When contacted, Sekandor Ali, an adviser to RDA Market Association, said he could not tell who removed the fire service banners. The market was constructed with direct supervision and management of RDA officials, he added.
“If the construction is flawed and has fire risk, RDA officials are responsible for it,” Ali said.
RDA Chairman Bazlar Rahman admitted that corruption took place during construction of the building and RDA officials were pressurised by business leaders with political clout.
The market was designed to have two storeys, but an extra floor was added, besides many other shops were constructed that were not in the original design, he claimed. “Business leaders had pressurised RDA officials to ignore rules,” he said.
Now as the fire department issued notices, they are trying to find a way out.