Slum dwellers fight to survive after Bhasantek fire
The scene at Bhasantek slum resembles that of a ravaged wasteland in a dystopic world, with hundreds of lives stranded under the sky.
Two days have passed since the tragic fire engulfed a slum in Bhasantek area of Mirpur early on February 28, however, the condition of the affected families hardly changed during this time.
They have been passing the last two days without any shelter, while surviving with relief aids provided by the Dhaka district administration and some other voluntary organisations.
However, the food materials they provided the slum dwellers with are insufficient, to say the least.
Some of the people said they did not even get as much as the authorities claim to have provided for them.
Abul Hossain, who is running a cooperative of the slum dwellers there, said the relief aid package from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka District was supposed to include 20 kilogrammes of rice for each victim family of the fire incident, but in reality, they received only about 4-5 kilogrammes of rice for each family.
The authorities also gave the aids for the two days after the incident, but no aid came for today, he added.
Contacted, the DC office, however, denied the allegation on discrepancy in aid package and said they would take steps after further instructions for providing relief to the victims.
Since they have no means of shelter for their families, the slum dwellers are being unable to join whatever work they have been doing earlier, and are now trying to salvage everything they can from under the ashes and the ditch surrounding the slum area.
They are selling the salvaged materials, including metal utensils and corrugated irons, and with the money trying to manage some makeshift shelters with polythene tents and bamboo.
Abul Hossain said two such canopies have been erected, sheltering around 150 people, mostly women and children, while many others are still living outside in destitute condition.
A few of the victims, who have relatives living in other slums or in their native villages, have moved to them. However, the reality is, their relatives are in no better condition either, and the question remains that how long they would be able to continue their help.
Meanwhile, some others are searching for new shelters in other slums in Bhasantek area.
One of those who is looking for a new home is Jamil Uddin Akand, a mason, who has a large family of eight members with his wife, four daughters and two sons.
“I have been looking around in the other slums in Bhasantek area, but those slums charge a minimum rent of Tk 5,000 per month, which is beyond what I can afford,” Jamil said.
“When the fire broke out, all we could manage to save were our lives, and nothing else. Now we have no means to move on within our lives from here,” he added.
Abul Hossain lamented that although the slum dwellers are citizens of the country, their condition is far worse than that of the Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar.
Referring to selling the salvage metals and managing for now, he said this is not a solution.
“After a couple of days, the small sum of money that we got by selling the scraps will be finished. What will we do then?”
He urged all to come forward and help the slum dwellers so that they can gradually return to their normal life.