Container Depot Tragedy in Chittagong -MD. Akij Mahmud
Sometimes in the chemical-rich godown of old Dhaka, sometimes in the roadside factory of the elite city, sometimes in the crowded belt of Narayanganj, sometimes in the garment factory of Gazipur, and sometimes in the mill factory of Chittagong port city. The smell of burnt bodies is not only making the air in this concrete city heavy, but also the casualties in these fires are happening regularly in remote areas. Fires that occur outside the country’s major cities can be easily brought under control. These fires do not cause much damage, at least not in terms of death. But in our unplanned cities, the fires that are taking place in the rich industries amidst mismanagement and unrest seem to be becoming the writing of all the old and painful poetry. Death seems to be an accident. The tragic scene of death by fire seems very normal to our eyes now. The horrific incidents of fires in factories also seem normal. But hidden behind it are unpublished stories like irregularities, mismanagement, neglect, and exploitation of workers. The fires that we have chosen to extinguish the fires are not extinguishing the fire at all, but it is burning the family, the society, and this country.
Fires are happening every day in the country. Things like carelessness or negligence are highlighted as the reason behind it. But in a country that has repeatedly mourned the loss of burnt corpses, there is no way to easily blame negligence for the cause of the accident. Because we see that in the last 5 years, in case of fire, it has exceeded 1 lakh times.
According to the Fire Service and the Department of Civil Defense, there were 99,652 fire incidents between 2016 and December 2020. Excluding the fires of 2021 and 2022, the statistics show that this accident has turned into a terrible disease.
Therefore, there is no chance to take the incident fire as normal. This is because the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred in it calls into question the state’s civil security provisions.
According to the fire service, 2,317 people died in fire accidents in the 15 years from 2008 to 2020. 12 thousand 374 people were injured. The damage caused by the fire could have no financial value. Because life has no meaning. However, in case of fire, financial assistance from the owner or the government is mentioned. Of course, there is a need for financial assistance, but if there is any inconsistency in the incident, it is important to find out and bring it to justice. At the very least, it is even more urgent when such things happen again and again. Hundreds of lives are being lost in fire accidents prematurely, and the country’s administratively responsible people are quite reluctant to monitor the matter. In the event of a catastrophic fire, only firefighting management is discussed, and the investigation into the fire accident and the release of the investigation report are over. We easily forget the damage caused by fire and the fact that we also forget that we still have a long way to go.
Problems are our daily routine. Naturally, a densely populated developing country will be plagued with hundreds of problems. The good news is that we as a nation are dreaming a lot. Some visible progress is being observed in front of us. We are moving forward in the economy. But it is also true that development and problems cannot go hand in hand. That development will not be sustainable unless the issues that are useful in our day-to-day life-sustaining activities are controlled or eliminated in certain cases.
The horror of the fire in Chittagong which brought tears to the eyes of the nation was not unimaginable. In 2012, the worst fire in the history of the country occurred. In Ashulia, 116 garment workers were killed in that fire. Almost a decade later, when the Sitakunda fire in Chittagong took place, it was as if it made us stand in front of a transparent mirror.
The question has arisen as to how much life security is being used in the country as it has climbed the ladder of development in a decade. It is not uncommon to question the extent to which firefighting equipment and our firefighting fire service have been modernized.
We have come a long way in considering the rate at which urbanization is taking place in the country and in which unplanned industrial factories are being built, whether they are being built properly according to the rules and taking overall steps. The cause of the fire may be trivial, our negligence or carelessness may be responsible for it, but the negligence of those responsible through proper investigation is certainly punishable.
The fire service team is the only fire brigade in case of fire. Compared to the way the developed and developing countries of the world are making the fire service efficient with modern equipment, our fire service workers are in many ways incompetent.
Not only in Chittagong or Dhaka, but also in remote areas, the inefficiency of our fire service units in extinguishing fires is evident. Experts are also blaming the inefficiency of the fire service for the high number of casualties in the fire. At the same time, they are raising the issue of the ability to use modern technology. However, it should not be forgotten that public awareness is the main factor in preventing fire accidents.
Whether it is an official court or a house, an industrial factory, or a small market, we all have to abide by the conditions given for the construction of buildings through a fire extinguishing system. Regular supervision can be arranged in the least risky areas through the operation of government mobile courts.
We do not want anyone to be burnt to death. The financial loss in a fire may be calculated by the society and the country, but the compensation of a burnt body cannot be matched by a family. The state cannot in any way avoid these fire incidents. The responsible quarters should not forget that the state also must take effective steps to create public awareness of personal security.
The writer of this article is studying at the University of Chittagong