As the call for relocating the warehouses of chemicals and inflammable goods from Old Dhaka gets louder, an industries ministry probe committee claimed that there was no chemical factory or warehouse at the scene of Wednesday's devastating fire in Chawkbazar.
However, a team of firefighters on Friday found several hundred barrels and sacks of combustible and flammable substances stored in the basement of the four-storey Haji Wahed Mansion, the worst affected building.
Pictures of the huge stockpile of chemicals, including several inflammable ones, were published in many newspapers, including The Daily Star.
Notwithstanding this, the industries ministry's primary probe report on Thursday said there was no chemical warehouse or factory anywhere near the scene.
The report, signed by Additional Secretary Mohammad Mofizul Haque of the industries ministry, mentioned that there was a warehouse of cosmetics products on the first floor of the building.
It also mentioned that doctors said there was no sign of chemical burns on the patients. The charred bodies were burnt by “dry flame”.
Contacted, Mofizul, convener of the probe committee, said, “Investigation is going on. I will not say anything more.”
The probe committee visited the spot on Thursday and talked to witnesses, victims and locals about the cause of the fire. Besides, the committee talked with the victims at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The 12-member committee was formed on Thursday to investigate the cause of the fire, assess the damages and make recommendations to prevent such disasters in the future. The body was asked come up with a full probe report in five working days.
“It primarily appears that there was a restaurant on the ground floor of Wahed Mansion and a cosmetics warehouse on the first floor. Besides, plastic granular of some nearby shops was stored,” it reads.
“According to locals, a vehicle carrying cylinders was parked in the area. Suddenly, a cylinder at a restaurant or the vehicle exploded. The explosion caused a fire that spread in the surrounding places and an electric transformer caught fire.
“The transformer also exploded and the whole area plunged into darkness.”
The vehicle carrying cylinders was completely burnt and plastic granular and bottles of cosmetics products were scattered on the road.
Contacted, Mehedi Ahmed Ansary, professor of civil engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said. “There is no chemical factory but there were highly flammable goods.”
On Thursday, Maj AKM Shakil Newaz, director (operations and maintenance) of fire service, said they found 16 types of chemicals at the basement of the building.