With thousands of shanties razed in Friday’s fire at Mirpur’s Chalantika, rehabilitation of thousands of people rendered homeless has become a major challenge.
Several hundreds of people are living on the streets nearby, while some are trying to clean up the charred remains to erect temporary sheds. Many, however, are not that fortunate as most of the shanties are built on a jheel (lake).
No efforts were seen to rehabilitate the victims as of yesterday noon. The Dhaka District Administration was preparing a list of victims. So far they have enlisted 1,800 affected shanties.
Mohammad Jashim, 40, a day labourer, who has been living in the slum for 14 years, said he had six rooms. His five-member family used to occupy two, while four rooms were rented out.
On the first night, they roamed the street. The next night, they stayed at a shelter. Yesterday, Jashim was not sure where his family would stay.
“Some people came and wrote down our names. Some assured help. But we haven’t received anything yet. There was no assurance of rehabilitation,” Jashim said.
Most of the shanties were made of corrugated tin, wood or bamboo -- with the roofs covered with polythene.
Anxiety over what the future holds has gripped almost all of the around 3,000 families affected by the fire, according to locals.
Recalling other fire incidents, another slum dweller Kabir Hossain, 50, said after such fires break out, government authorities, NGOs and volunteers came forward with aid. But this time, such efforts have been inadequate, Kabir observed.
“It seems the authorities are ignoring us,” he said.
The fire victims did not receive any aid yet, except for food. The district administration, local MP and the ward councillor are providing food to the victims.
Some volunteers were providing food to the slum dwellers at Bangabandhu Bidyaniketan School located nearby, where some of the victims have been taking shelter for the time being.
Bread and banana for breakfast, khichuri for lunch and dinner -- but not all were lucky to have them.
Abu Saleh Mohammad Ferdous Khan, deputy commissioner of Dhaka District Administration, said they have not yet decided on rehabilitation or aid for the fire victims.
“Aid for the victims will depend on their needs. We are still working on it,” he said.
After a six-hour long effort, 24 firefighting units doused the blaze around 1:30am on Friday. Most of the families rendered homeless are low-income people, including garment workers, rickshaw-pullers, hawkers, domestic workers and day labourers.
Most of the families were at their village homes for Eid. Many returned to find only ashes where their homes once stood.
Multiple versions surfaced about the cause of the fire. Some suspect short-circuit while others suspect an act of sabotage. Officials, however, are still in the dark about it.
Illegal gas connections via plastic pipes helped Friday night’s fire spread faster -- razing almost the entire slum, fire service officials and locals said.
The three-member probe body formed by the fire service and civil defence will start their work from today, said Abdul Halim, an assistant director of the fire service, also a member of the probe body.