At least 10 people were injured early yesterday as a fire broke out from a gas explosion at a six-storey building in the capital's Banani area.
The residents of the building claimed the blast was caused by a gas pipe leak and blamed the Titas Gas authorities for the incident.
They said the Titas authorities paid no heed to their repeated requests for repairing the damaged pipeline.
Around 1:30am, fire erupted on the second floor of the building, Silverstone Sapphire, with 20 apartments on Road-23 and quickly spread to the upper floors, said witnesses.
Most of around 25 residents ran to the rooftop while others came out of the building. Several of them were injured in the process, while some fell ill after inhaling smoke.
Naved Imtiaz, son of building owner Shamshul Alam, suffered burn injuries and was admitted to the United Hospital.
The explosion and fire caused extensive damage to the entire building.
Raju Ahmed, a constable of Mirpur Public Order Management, said he was on duty in the area at that time of the explosion and that he heard a huge blast and felt the earth shaking.
Harun-or Rashid, deputy manager of Titas Zone-4, admitted that they had received complaints from the residents about the damaged pipe. He, however, didn't say why Titas didn't repair the damaged gas pipe on an urgent basis.
Requesting anonymity, a Titas official said they had a shortage of manpower as it was a holiday on Thursday.
Gas supply was shut in the area around 3:00am after the fire broke out in the building.
In a press statement, Titas said three to four inches of a gas pipe running to a house opposite the scene of the incident was torn during a digging work by Dhaka North City Corporation.
A five-member probe committee has been formed to find out the cause of the fire at the building around 20 feet off the damaged pipeline.
Locals alleged the DNCC did not take adequate measures to ensure safety after the pipe was damaged.
Mohammad Milon, a security guard of an adjacent building, said, “I was watching the work of the city corporation from in front of my house around 2:00am on Thursday. I saw a pipe got disconnected when an excavator was digging soil. Just after the disconnection I smelt of gas.”
During a visit, this corresponded found the disconnected pipe partly covered with sands, but with its mouth still open.
DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq, who visited the spot after the incident, said the DNCC was digging soil to lay a storm sewer line next to the building and found problems at a joint of a gas pipe.
The DNCC contractor immediately lodged a complaint with Titas Gas, but Titas didn't respond.
“We will be tough on Titas over the next few days. We want to know what is happening,” he told reporters.
The mayor said they would take the responsibility if they found the DNCC was at fault, but if it was Titas' fault, it would have to take the responsibility.
Building owner Shamsul Alam said he called the Titas Gas authorities four times between 10:30am and 11:30pm on Thursday, explaining the urgency of the problem. But his requests went in vain.
They told him that they would come and repair it. But they never came, said Shamsul.
When he called Titas authorities at 11:30pm for the fourth time, an official there said they would go to the spot only if he (the owner) could find labourers to dig soil at the spot.
“As it wasn't possible for me to find workers at that time, I didn't call him again. And the fire broke out early today,” he told The Daily Star.
Shamsul later told reporters that he might seek to take legal action against Titas as it was to blame for the incident.
Meanwhile, Titas suspended its radio operator at the emergency section Md Alamgir Hossain for negligence in duty. It was Alamgir who had asked the building owner to find workers for fixing the gas pipe, according to Titas officials.
The fire service and civil defence formed a three-member committee to find out the cause of the explosion.
Major AKM Shakil Newaz, director (operation and maintenance) of fire service, said they saw bubbles and traces of gas leak in front of the house as well as at the digging site.
They also saw that some columns and concrete beams of the building were damaged.
Eighteen units of fire service doused the flame around 4:40am.
The residents were not allowed to enter the building till 9:00pm yesterday.
Prof Syed Ishtiaq Ahmad of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, who visited the spot, told reporters that the tenants were allowed to enter the building after it was deemed safe.