For over a decade now, old Dhaka has been scarred by some of the worst and most tragic infernos in the country's history. Warehouses and factories are common danger zones. These fires have left countless people dead or injured, and the pain lives on to this day.
Let's look at some of the deadliest fires in old Dhaka:
Nimtoli fire in 2010
On 3 June 2010, a ravenous fire, which originated from a chemical warehouse in Nimtoli, old Dhaka, left at least 124 people dead.
The fire started when an electrical transformer exploded. The head of the fire department speculated that the fire was fanned by perfumes, chemicals and other flammable products stored in shops. The density of the residential area that was affected made it difficult for firefighters to quell the blaze. Also, the narrow lanes of old Dhaka and staircases of old buildings made it difficult for fire service equipment to enter the area.
The fire affected multiple residential buildings in the Nimtoli area, and trapped residents inside apartments. It started at 10:30 pm and lasted for over three hours.
The injured were treated at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, which struggled to cope with the large number of patients suffering burns and smoke inhalation. According to a doctor at the hospital, most of the deaths appeared to have been caused by smoke inhalation rather than burns.
Rescue operations ceased on 4 June 2010.
The then Bangshal police inspector Abul Hasan said no cases were filed over the fire; only a general diary was filed. Hasan, who is now the Officer-in-Charge of Gulshan police station, said no investigation took place after the general diary was filed.
Churihatta fire in 2019
On 20 February 2019, a huge explosion suddenly ripped through Churihatta Intersection, causing a massive inferno that engulfed three surrounding multi-storey buildings.
The tragic incident left 67 people dead on the spot and injured more than 20. Over the next 11 days, four more victims succumbed to their burns.
The deadly fire had ravaged several buildings housing shops, chemical and plastic warehouses on Nanda Kumar Lane of old Dhaka. Apart from the dead, the fire had left scores of others with severe injuries.
Initially, after the news of the inferno spread, people mistakenly assumed that a cylinder blast in Rajmahal Hotel and Restaurant had caused the fire. Footage from Rajmahal's closed-circuit camera later helped reveal that the fire broke out at the adjacent five-storey Hazi Wahed Mansion.
A chemical engineering team of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology examined the site of the incident and declared that the fire had resulted from a chemical vapour explosion.
The team also found proof that the fire originated on the first floor of the mansion – where hundreds of flammable substances were stockpiled for wholesale.
The fire gutted residential apartments – along with the warehouses on the upper floors and shops on the ground floor. Almost all the utility services were cut and all dwellers of Churihatta left the area.
Devidwarghat fire in 2022
The most recent blaze broke out in a plastic factory situated in the Devidwarghat area of Chawkbazar, Dhaka on Monday (15 August).
Lieutenant Colonel Zillur Rahman, director of operations and maintenance said that the fire started from the ground floor of a hotel near the factory.
"I heard that the fire started due to a gas cylinder explosion. The actual cause can be determined after investigation," he added.
There was a restaurant on the ground floor of the 4-story building in which the factory was situated. The fire started after a cylinder exploded. There are other plastic, polythene, and chemical factories nearby, so the overall situation is critical, the Fire Service said.
It also added that the building, just as most buildings in the area, wasn't built following safety regulations.
Locals said that a cylinder exploded in the restaurant on the ground floor of the building the factory is situated in; the plastic factory caught fire from there.
The fire was brought under control after about 2.5 hours, a Fire Service said.
Six charred bodies have been found inside the restaurant around 4:20pm Monday.
The bodies have been sent to Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital (Mitford Hospital) morgue for autopsy.