Toddler goes missing while playing
An 18-month-old child has been missing since yesterday afternoon; family and locals fear he might have fallen into an open drain near their house in Agrabad's Rongi Para in the port city.
However, no one saw it happening.
Locals said the toddler, Yasin, the only child of Saddam Hussain, a private car driver, and Nasrin Akter, a homemaker, might have fallen into the drain while playing on the road behind their house around 4:30pm, adding that the drain was full to the brim due to overnight torrential rain.
Yasin's uncle Md Rashid said, "His mother fed him lunch and went to another room for a while. They live on the bottom floor and though the front door was locked, the back door was open. Yasin snuck out through the back door and has been missing since then."
On information, fire service divers rushed to the spot and began their rescue operation around 5:30pm.
Shafiqul Islam, station officer of Agrabad Fire Service, said, "We rushed to the spot as soon as we got information that a baby has gone missing, but it has been challenging as the drain is filled with polythene and plastic waste."
The rescue operation was called off at 11:00pm.
Talking to The Daily Star around 12:30am today, Abdur Razzak, deputy assistant director of Chattogram Fire Service and Civil Defence, said, "We have searched every nearby area and have not been able to trace the child. We have reasons to believe he fell in the nearby drain. With that in mind, we fear the worst and find it reasonable to resume the drive in the morning."
Sunday's incident is not an isolated one.
Since 2017, at least eight people were killed and dozens were injured after falling into unprotected drains and canals in the port city.
Despite the repeated accidents, the response of the authorities concerned has not be adequate to prevent them, city dwellers alleged.
Contacted, SM Nazer Hossain, central vice president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said Sunday's incident is another example of the sheer mismanagement of Chattogram City Corporation (CCC), adding, "The CCC officials have given assurance of taking preventive measures but the steps taken have been inadequate."
According to the city corporation, there are 57 (161km) canals and 765km of drains in the city.
In 2021, it conducted a survey to identify risky drains, canals and footpaths.
After the survey, 5,527 risky spots were identified but the work to secure those spots have been lackluster, sources within the CCC said.
Contacted, CCC Chief Engineer Rafiqul Islam said the work for installing slabs on open drains and retaining walls by the canals was going on.
"Slabs have already been installed on 30,000 square feet of open drains, while retaining walls have been built by 18,000 square feet of risky canals so far."
However, while visiting different areas in the city, including Chawk Bazar, Chatteshwari Road, Rahattar Pool and KB Aman Ali Road, the drains and canals were found open and unprotected.
Contacted, CCC Mayor Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said he was informed about the baby going missing. "I have instructed the CCC officials to join the rescue operation."
He added they were trying to cover all the open drains in the city, but "it is a time-consuming task".