Banani Slum burns

The Daily Star - March 4, 2004 - Bau Bazar Slum Blaze

photography by Sid




Staff Correspondent
At least four children were incinerated and 5,000 shanties reduced to ashes leaving over 25,000 people homeless in a devasting fire at Bau Bazar in Gulshan yesterday, police and firefighters said.

The blaze started by an earthen oven at a shanty at about 10:20am, engulfed the entire slum soon, charring dwellings, pet animals and utensils.

The dead included five-year-old Jasmine, daughter of Sohrab, who was retrieved from a heap of ashes. The identity of others could not be established immediately.

Nobody claimed the bodies until yeaterday evening as their parents were working away, slum residents said.

"I saw smoke billowing from the shanty of police Havilder Awal," said Fatema, a resident of the 20-acre slum wedged between Jamai Bazar slum to the north and a lake to the south and north, and the T&T slum to the west.

Eight firefighting units rushed to the scene at about 10:50am and doused the inferno after about five hours of fight.

Several goats and poultry were charred being trapped in the narrow lanes, by-lanes of the slum, said day-labourer Motiur.

"The fire, aided by strong winds, spread to the entire slum like a conflagration," Jabber, a local boatman said.

"I dumped all of my valuables including the television set in a resevoir. But the fire gutted everything in its way. There is nothing left between heaven and earth," said septuagenarian Hashem said.

"I managed to escape the fire with difficulty. Five sacks of rice and cash - my most valued belongings - are now a pile of ash," Hosne Ara said in a wail of dispair.

Two slums - one in Mohammadpur and another in Mirpur - were gutted this month in fires, one of which was blamed on criminals with land-grabbing intent.