Site of the incident

Rakhi Villa is located on 79 Outer Circular Road, opposite to the Aarong outlet and Bishal, in the Wireless area of Moghbazar. A part of Moghbazar flyover ends there. It was the epicentre of the blast. The explosion destroyed most of the ground floor of the three-storied building. Three buses were damaged in front of the building. A steel door lay eight feet away from the building as evidence the tragedy. The name plaque of the ‘Rakhi Neer Plaza’ flew towards the flyover. A bus of Labbaik Paribahan was damaged and stopped on the flyover nearly 30 metres away from the building. A generator from the building laid abandoned on the road. Shattered glass from buildings and buses were everywhere. All glass from the windows of the building housing the Aarong outlet at least 50 metres away from the origin of the explosion were on the road. Not only that, glass of windows from the buildings within 150 metres also shattered, strewn all over road.

How many were killed?

As usual, information on the fatalities was deferred initially. Several media reported six dead while, the figure, according to the director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence, was three till the night of 27 June. Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam said death toll was seven.

What are the reasons?

Hearing the bang, many people in the area thought it might have a sabotage. Everyone was asking what was the reason of the explosion with a loud bang? Generator, air conditioner (AC), Bengal Meat’s chillier room compressor, power transformer, gas cylinder of Shawarma House or any vehicle—what caused the blast? A fire service official said there was big chillier room at Bengal Meat outlet. High voltage compressor was used to cool the room temperature. The compressor might have exploded for any reason. Beside gas cylinders used at Shawarma House might also have exploded.

No one has a specific answer to these questions. Nobody including fire services, police, Criminal Investigation Department and Bomb Disposal Unit can’t say anything. However, police didn’t suspect it was a sabotage. Such incident also happened before in Shanir Akhra of Dhaka and Chattogram. Nobody wants to say anything before investigation concludes. Fire service officials suspect gas accumulated anywhere in the house causing such a huge explosion. At least, experiences from Narayanganj and Chattogram say so.

The fire service formed a four-member committee to investigate the cause of the blast. The committee was asked to submit its report in seven days. The police will also form a committee. They will investigate in their style. The police chief said, “We do not want the repetition of such an incident.” Titas Gas authorities will also form a three-member committee to find out the cause of the explosion.

Conduct fair investigation

Some agencies or companies have already started saying, “Our gas didn’t cause the incident, other’s one may cause it’. The Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company directly rejected the claim on explosion causing from gas leakage before even the investigation begins. They said two LGP cylinders of the Shawarma House might have exploded. Titas Gas managing director Ali Iqbal Md Nurullah told the media, “Initially we found a gas line there, and it’s very small. It had a diameter of 3-4 inch and pressure was only 2 PSI (pound per square inch). It was not supposed to have much gas.” But explosive expert said gas might have accumulated in the building from a leak, resulting in the deadly explosion.

It is necessary to include researchers, teachers, experts and even the affected persons in the inquiry committee.

Gas incident becomes a terror now

There has been a growing number of incidents related to gas, creating fear and a lack of trust among people. There are more than 4 million (40 lakh) gas cylinders in the country and only six testing centres. Since no gas connection is provided now, gas cylinders are kept altogether at a certain place under a multi-storied building and that gas is supplied to the kitchens through plastic pipes. What can be more dangerous than that?

According to Titas Gas, in 2017, as many as 238 fire incidents originated from fireplace and 5,650 incidents from gas line leakage. According to Fire Service and Civil Defence, 103 incidents occurred in 2018 including with 55 incidents caused from gas line leak and 48 incidents from LPG cylinders. That year, six people including children were killed on the spot and 31 were admitted to hospital. The fire service’s death tally didn’t include those who died at hospital. In fact, we learn very little unless someone dies. Besides, do we ever get to know the details about the inquiry reports of any big incident or is everything concealed?

We believe it’s still possible to make the country including Dhaka safe and livable. Naturally surrounded by rivers, Dhaka can be the best city to live in the world. A scientific study also mentioned this several years ago. But before that, all including minsters and bureaucrats will have to think of the city and the country as their own.

* Gowhar Nayeem Wahra is a disaster management expert and researcher. He can be reached at [email protected]

This article appeared in the print and the online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Hasanul Banna