In one of these incidents, 37 people died. A total of 40 were burnt in the blast during the Esha prayer on 4 September last year at the Baitus Salat Jame Masjid (mosque) in West Talla area of the city. Only three of the victims returned alive from the hospital.
After that incident, the locals said they had been smelling the gas for a long time. There was no initiative regarding this despite Titas Gas authorities being informed of the matter. Only after so many deaths, did the Titas Gas authorities take up the matter. Later, the road north of the mosque was dug and and six holes were found in an abandoned pipeline of Titas.
The report of the committee formed by the district administration came up with 18 recommendations. These include, formulation of policies regarding construction and management of mosques to prevent future accidents, having wide doors in mosques, having a fire extinguishing system, ensuring coordination among service providers (in road digging), regular monitoring of Titas gas pipelines, official approval of gas connections and line transfers, coordination in the cases of new connections and disconnecting all the illegal gas connections.
However, no initiatives have been taken for the implementation of these recommendations. Many of the officials even have forgotten about the recommendations. Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mominul Haque, deputy managing director (DMD) of Narayanganj office of Titas Gas, said on Sunday that that most of their employers have been transferred because of this incident.
When asked about implementing the recommendations, he said, “We have to look into these recommendations. However, there are many old pipelines. There could be leakages in those pipelines. Whenever we get information about any leakage, immediate action is taken for the repairs.”
After the death of 37 people in Talla mosque, the Titas Gas authority suspended eight of their employees including four officials of Fatullah region, but all of them have been reinstated. However, police said that they have found the proof of Titas employers’ negligence in their investigation. On 31 December, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of police filed a charge sheet in the court against 29 people.
The Talla mosque incident came to the limelight due to so many deaths. However, in most of the cases, no initiative is to determine the liability of the incidents.
Police superintendent (SP) of Narayanganj, Jayedul Alam told Prothom Alo that a case is filed if someone dies in a fire incident. A case of unnatural death is filed when someone dies in an accident. A charge sheet is filed in the court alleging negligent death against the accused persons if there are allegations of negligence. If no complaint is received, the final report is submitted.
The latest explosion took place at midnight on 8 March in a flat of a six-storey building, Haji Villa, in the West Masdair area of the Narayanganj city. The explosion was caused by a leakage in the gas cylinder. Six members of the same family including a child got burnt in this incident. Already four of them have died. Two more, including the child, are receiving treatment at the Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute in Dhaka. Their condition is critical too.
No case has been lodged in this regard one week after the incident. There has been no initiative to determine the liability. Fatullah model police station’s officer-in-charge (OC), Rakibuzzaman told Prothom Alo that although no case has been filed in this case, police have lodged a general diary (GD) as plaintiff. No one has filed any complaint in this regard either.
In the early morning of 2 January 2020, three members of the same family, including husband and wife, were burnt in an explosion caused by gas emitted from the oven on the second floor of a six storied building in CI Khola area in Siddhirganj. On 7 January, the same kind of explosion occurred in a flat on the ground floor of a four-storey building. A couple was burnt in this incident. The couple had to undergo lengthy treatment.
In the early hours of 18 February, eight members of the same family were burnt in an explosion in a flat on the ground floor of a five-storey building in Sahebpara area of Sadar upazila. Five members of the family died while undergoing treatment. Despite a case of unnatural death filed in this regard, the police did not move further, neither did any other organisation publish any report. As a result the cause behind the incident remains unknown.
In this regard, Narayanganj Nagorik Committee’s president AB Siddique said, everyone remains careless even after the death of 37 people in the blast at Talla Mosque. There is no initiative to implement the recommendations. The accused could not be identified in the other incidents. The people are not being clearly informed about how the incident took place. As a result, there are frequent fires from gas, people are dying. He said Titas Gas cannot avoid their liability. There is no alternative to creating public awareness to overcome this situation. Titas should also take initiative in this regard.
*This interview appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu