Finger pointed at Titas’ neglect
One or more leaky gas pipes left unfixed for over a month have caused Friday night's tragedy in a Narayanganj mosque, grieving residents said.
They blame Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company for not fixing the problem on time and demanding Tk 50,000 for the job.
The explosion at Pashchim Talla Baitus Salam Masjid left 20 people dead and at least 20 others praying in the mosque critically injured.
Mosque management committee members said it happened when cooking gas leaked from adjacent pipes got trapped in the mosque and ignited somehow.
"We have been noticing constant bubbling in the rain water right beside the building for the last one month," said Al-Amin, religious affairs secretary of the mosque management committee, "We could also smell the gas in the air."
There are three gas pipes around the three-storey building. One of them is partly underneath the mosque and the two others are along the sides, said the 45-year-old man, adding that there was an old riser underground on the left side of the main entrance.
People in the neighbourhood also said they first noticed the signs of a leaking gas connection nearly two months ago.
Besides, video clips of bubbles in the rainwater beside the mosque shot allegedly after the explosion went viral on Facebook.
Titas officials, however, shrugged off the responsibility, saying no one made an official complaint about the leakage.
Mosque management committee secretary Abdul Hamza Saud, now fighting for life at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, went to the Titas office about 20 days ago to inform them about the problem, said committee president Abdul Gafur.
Titas officials asked for Tk 50,000. "We have been collecting the money, but it happened before that." Gafur told The Daily Star.
Had the Titas given priority to the matter, the accident might not have happened, he said, "And our brothers wouldn't have to die."
Contacted, Sirajul Islam, manager of at Titas office in Fatulla area, said, "No one came to me, my subordinates or superiors to complain about the leakage."
Mofizul Islam, deputy general manager of Titas in Narayanganj, said a probe committee has been formed to look into the matter. "It is not appropriate to talk before the probe is done."
About the video clip, he said, "Yes, I've seen it too. But, without digging we can't say for sure the reason behind the explosion. After the probe, we will know what had actually happened."
The mosque was established on four decimals of land donated by a charity in 1990.
The three-storey building was constructed in 2000. The top floor is being developed while the first two floors are used for saying prayers. There are narrow alleys around the building.
Inside, there were warped blades of ceiling fans, charred remains of human flesh and prayer rugs, shards of glass and debris all over the floor.
Prof Mohammad Tamim of the Department of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Engineering at Buet said "What could I understand from the incident is that gas trapped inside the mosque led to the explosion."
"Gas is lighter than wind and its nature is to go up. When gas is leaked in an open space, an explosion does not happen. There might be fire, but not an explosion," he said.
Meanwhile, Titas Deputy General Manager Mofizul Islam added that his company does not take connection lines underneath any private property.
"People often take connections underneath their temporary structures. But before construction of the building, it is their duty to inform Titas and request us to move the lines," he said.
Asked about the riser underground, the official said, "It can happen only when people do earth-filling to elevate a property's ground level. But it is very rare," he said.
Three probe committees have formed.
Deputy Commissioner of Narayanganj formed a committee whereas Fire Service and Civil Defence and Titas formed the two others.
Deputy Commissioner of Narayanganj Jashim Uddin said they formed a five-member committee headed by additional deputy commissioner Khadiza Tahera Boby.
The committee was asked to submit a report in five working days.
Titas has formed a committee led by its general manager of Dhaka office Abdul Wahab.
Fire Service Director (Operations) Lt Col Zillur Rahman is convener of the other committee.