Dhaka at risk of fires and earthquakes: Experts

Dhaka: The violation of building codes and defiance of safety issues during construction of high-rises have exposed around 18 million people in and around the capital to fires and earthquakes, say experts.

Dhaka, one of the world’s most densely-populated cities, has witnessed a number of devastating fires in recent months and years, reports the UNB.

Urban experts say the recent fire incidents at Chawkbazar, Banani’s FR Tower, and Gulshan’s DNCC kitchen market show how the lack of safety measures is putting people’s lives at risk.

Noted construction and earthquake expert Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, urban expert Prof Nazrul Islam, architect and urban planner Iqbal Habib and Buet’s Civil Engineering department Prof Mehedi Ahmed Ansari attributed the rise in fire incidents to unplanned urbanisation, violation of building codes, carelessness, increased use of gas cylinders and lack of supervision by authorities.

They suggested taking immediate initiatives to ensure safety compliance of city buildings like the garment factories.

Seventy people were killed in the Old Dhaka fire last month. Thursday’s fire at FR Tower claimed the lives of 26 people.

Government officials said the tower was constructed flouting the building code and that it had unusable firefighting equipment.

‘It’s not surprising,’ Prof Mehedi Ahmed Ansari said. ‘Most high-rises in Dhaka lack necessary fire safety measures.’

Prof Nazrul Islam said electric short-circuit, gas and other burners, cigarettes, gas cylinders and technological devices and inflammable objects and chemicals usually trigger fires.

It is still unclear what sparked the fire at FR Tower.

‘A disaster in waiting’

Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, a construction and earthquake expert, told UNB that a large number of buildings in Dhaka flouted the building code and Building Construction Rule 1996 during construction, putting people’s lives at risk.

‘With so many vulnerable buildings in the capital, I fear that between 100,000 and 150,000 people may be killed if a strong earthquake hits Dhaka,’ he said.