3 probe bodies formed
The authorities concerned yesterday formed three probe committees to investigate Sunday night's fire incident at Amar Ekushey Boi Mela on Bangla Academy premises in the capital.
The fire, quite unprecedented for the fair, gutted 37 book stalls of 25 publishers and caused a colossal loss of around Tk 2 crore, according to a primary estimate by publishers.
The probe committees comprised of government officials, law enforcers, Bangla Academy officials, publishers, fire service officials and experts were asked to submit their final report by February 27.
Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad made the disclosure while visiting the book fair yesterday afternoon.
One of the committees, led by Bangla Academy secretary Altaf Hossain, has been asked to find the reason behind the fire. This probe body is also comprised of members of police, fire department, Power Development Board, Rapid Action Battalion and Boi Mela committee.
Another five-member committee has been formed to asses the loss in the fire, while the third committee is to make recommendations and prepare a final report after scrutinising the reports submitted by the other two committees.
The Bangla Academy has also lodged a general diary with Shahbagh Police Station in connection with the fire incident.
On compensating the publishers, the cultural minister said it would be decided in an inter-ministerial meeting, which would be held after the submission of the final report.
The fire at book fair broke out around 12:58am at the Dhirendranath Chattar [Square] and lasted for about 30 minutes.
Farid Ahmed, executive director of Bangladesh Gyan and Srijonshil Prokash Samity, said, "Fire can break out accidentally from ovens, or short-circuits, or from any flammable substances. But no ovens or flammable substances were found where the fire had started. Besides, there was no possibility of short-circuit, as the electricity supply had been centrally snapped around 9:30pm."
He said they had estimated the total cost at Tk 2 crore by assessing the number of books burnt and the cost of the stall and furniture.
Director of Bangla Academy Shamsuzzaman said, "The way the fire erupted several times makes me think that it could have been an act of sabotage. The fire broke out first at Dhirendranath Chattar which the fire fighters doused around 1:40am. But 15 minutes later, flames had been detected at Genius Prokashoni stall, located quite afar from Dhirendranath chatter. After another 15 minutes the fire reappeared in Bijoy Prokash stall which was not very far from the Genius Prokashoni stall."
Jamil Ahmed, station officer of fire brigade at the book fair, said, "We saw the blaze around 1:05am and rushed to the spot. Soon five units of fire service joined us. By 1:45am, we took control over the situation."
Sub-Inspector Anwarul Hossain of Shahbagh Police Station said a total of 48 closed-circuit cameras had been set up on the fair premises, of which one was destroyed by the fire. We will hand the footage of that night over to the investigation committee.
Meanwhile, the Bangla Academy has prepared some temporary stalls for the victim publishers. But the publishers refused to continue with the stalls, saying that they did not have much books left and the stalls were not well decorated.
Monir Hossain, assistant director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said, "The fire department has formed a three-member probe body headed by its Deputy Assistant Director Abdul Halim to investigate the fire incident.
The Ekushey Boi Mela witnessed a huge crowd yesterday, but the mood of the fair appeared to be quite gloomy.
Publishers incurred heavy loss as most of their new books hit the fair on 21st February. Lack of books will now force them to sit idle at the fag end of the fair when the sale is the highest.
"Our publication has brought out eight books this season of which five books hit the fair on February 21. The fire caused us a loss of more than Tk 3.20 lakh," said Abul Bashar, manager of Kishor Bhubon Publication.
Different organisations across the country expressed deep shock over the fire incident at the book fair.