Many victims still under the open sky | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 02, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:45 AM, March 02, 2019

Bhasantek Slum Fire

Many victims still under the open sky

Many dwellers of the Bhasantek slum -- that burnt to ashes early on Thursday -- have been living under the open sky with no food, water, power, and sanitation facilities for the last three days.

Victims of the fire said they need immediate shelter, clothes, food, pots and pans, as they have lost all their belongings in the fire.

While visiting the area, this correspondent found many slum dwellers in tears, sitting scattered in the area with their children. Many of them were searching for their belongings in the debris.

In the early hours of Thursday, around 600 shanties at the Bhasantek slum in Dhaka's Mirpur area -- known as “Abul's slum” and “Jahangir's slum” -- burnt down, leaving around 3,000 people homeless.

“I owned 22 shanties at a cost of Tk 7 lakh which I borrowed. My investment of 18 years has vanished in the fire. Now where would we go with our children?” wailed Sufia Begum, who along with her husband Abul Hossain built the first shanty in the area 18 years ago.

Over a hundred slum dwellers and their children are sheltered in a makeshift tent, while most others have been staying under the open sky.

Some of the victims said they have been given blankets and food.

“I received five blankets for six members of my family, and got space in this tent. But we can't sleep here due to mosquitoes. We searched for rented shanties, but didn't get any. We need immediate shelter,” said Rahima Begum.

Contacted, Dhaka's deputy commissioner Abu Saleh Mohammad Ferdous told The Daily Star, “We enlisted around 700 families who faced losses. Every family has been given 20 kilogrammes of rice, cooked and dry food, and blankets as primary aid.”

However, he did not mention anything about providing shelter to the victims.

Earlier on February 19,  authorities had conducted an eviction drive in a nearby slum, “Kazal'er Tek”. Many of the evicted slum dwellers took shelter in the Bhasantek slum.

Slum dwellers suspect that someone “might have set fire” to the slum, while Fire Service and Civil Defence officials said the “fire could have initiated from electric short-circuit or a mosquito coil”.

“We will start investigation soon to find the reason of fire, and calculate the losses,” Noor Islam, deputy director of Fire Service and Civil Defence in Dhaka told The Daily Star yesterday.

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