Following a night of devastation, most of the untouched shops were reopening slowly. An elderly resident commented that sudden blazes are a regular occurrence here.
The fire had been put out, smoke was still wafting here and there amid burnt remains of stores, which had been the only livelihood for some; people were grieving, while others were desperately scavenging for remains of precious possessions - this was the picture at Saat Tala slum where a massive blaze gutted over 50 shanties just last night.
Following a night of devastation, a visit to the slum on Tuesday morning at Mohakhali in the capital revealed that most of the undamaged shops were reopening slowly, despite the tragic incident. An elderly resident commented that sudden blazes are a regular occurrence here.
Local volunteers lent food, and even clothes, to the victims but their generosity had little effect on Dulal Chandra, who lost about Tk1.5 lakh in cash overnight.
"You see this bundle of Tk500 notes, I had Tk100,000 in cash here alone," he told The Business Standard, pointing at the burnt banknotes. Sitting in front of his decimated shop, he blamed his luck for this unimaginable catastrophe.
Dulal had saved the cash in his shop that fateful night as he was due to visit Patuakhali in a few days.
While others were trying to console him by saying that at least he was alive, the shock seemed too heavy for him to bear. Like Dulal, other victims also had very little time to react when the fire broke out.
The brick-built structures of most shops and adjacent houses had collapsed as a result of the heavy blaze.
Puja Rani, an employee of a pharmacy nearby had lost her home, and almost all her belongings. She said if they had had enough time to respond, some of their possessions could have been saved.
"We barely escaped with our lives. Not just our valuables, I lost educational certificates and other important documents," she said.
She recalled the event that took place at around 11:45pm. At a time when most of the shops in front of the slum were closing for the night, a fire erupted in one such store and rapidly spread everywhere, including to the houses in the rear.
Some locals have been debating over the origin of the fire, but whether it was a gas leak or a short circuit in the electricity line remains to be settled. Locals estimate that the damage could be worth several lakhs, if not crores.
Monir Hossain, another shop owner, complained about the fire service's slow response. A local resident suggested that the challenging location of the slum put the firefighters at a disadvantage when they were trying to put out the fire.
On May 15, 2015, a fire broke out in the same slum, burning down 20 houses. The following year on December 11, another fire gutted 100 shanties.
In a statement after the accident, Deputy Director of Fire Service and Civil Defense (Dhaka Division), Debashis Bardhan, said, "The fire originated at around 11:47pm on Monday. After more than one and half hours of effort, 11 fire-fighting units brought the blaze under control."
When briefing the media shortly thereafter, Fire Service's Director (Operation), Jillur Rahman said, "The fire had engulfed more than 40 shanties soon after it started. We estimate that around 60 shanties had been gutted by the time the fire was eventually brought under control."