The fire that burned through an entire slum at Mirpur’s Chalantika area on Friday was reportedly exacerbated by plastic pipes facilitating illegal gas connections. The plastic pipes melted in the heat, releasing gas from within and making the blaze spread much faster than it would have otherwise. Locals have alleged that syndicates run by some ruling party men in cahoots with employees of Titas Gas stole gas from the main transmission and distribution lines and diverted it to the slum in exchange for money from slum dwellers. Thanks to these illegal gas pipes, it was an accident waiting to happen.
It was a frightening spectacle as the fire rapidly engulfed everything. Fortunately, casualties could be avoided since many people living in the slum were away because of the Eid holidays. Otherwise, the way the fire spread so quickly, the number of deaths could easily have been extremely high. This, however, is a classic example of how the poor, particularly those living in Dhaka’s slums, live, surrounded by constant and serious dangers and under conditions where they can easily be exploited by different syndicates—without the authorities ever batting an eyelid. Not only were these people living with such death-traps hanging right over their heads, but many gas cylinders were also found in the slum, some of which exploded during the fire, making things even worse.
With their houses and belongings burned to ashes, thousands of people from the slum are now living on the streets with no relief in sight. They should be given immediate aid and be rehabilitated. Aside from that, the authorities need to come up with a plan to inspect the conditions of different slums and ensure that a repeat of this incident does not occur.