Thirteen workers died in a massive fire that gutted an unauthorised plastic products factory in Keraniganj on Wednesday
Mohammad Sujan and his family had migrated from Barishal's Hizla Upazila to the Keraniganj area in Dhaka in the hopes of a better life and a brighter future.
The 19-year old operated a biriyani box machine at the Prime Plate and Plastics Industries Ltd in Keraniganj, while his father Md Khalil made a living as a rickshaw puller. Both father and son worked from dawn to dusk with firm dedication to earn as much money as they could.
Sujan was among 13 workers who died in a massive fire that gutted the unauthorised plastic factory.
His mother stays at home after suffering a heart attack, and she still has no clue about what happened to her child.
"Sujan used to spend all his earnings on his mother's treatment. But the almighty took him away. How can we endure such pain?" his father Khalil said while breaking down in tears as he received the dead body of his son from Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) morgue.
"It is too difficult for a father to carry his son's dead body," he added.
Among the deceased victims of the factory fire, one died at the scene on Wednesday, while eight others succumbed to injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital the same night.
Two died on Thursday morning, and two more around noon.
The victims suffered severe burns on their entire bodies. Eighteen more are currently in critical condition and undergoing treatment at two different hospitals.
Among the 18 injured victims, ten are fighting for their lives at the Intensive Care Unit of the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery in Dhaka, while eight others are admitted to the DMCH burn unit.
Dr Samanta Lal Sen, Chief National Coordinator for Plastic Surgery and All Burn Projects, said, "Some of them suffered 100 percent burns on their bodies. I have never seen anything like this before."
Faisal Dewan, 29, a deceased victim from Munshiganj's Bikrampur area, was working at the plastic factory as an electric engineer.
He tied the knot with Tasilma on October 2017. He used to visit Bikrampur at least once a week to see his wife, who is six months pregnant.
Faisal was supposed to meet his wife and family this weekend. But he began his final journey home in a nailed coffin on Thursday. His struggles came to a permanent end as he left this world with severe burns and pain.
However, the tragedy did not end there, as Faisal's brother-in law Jinarul Islam, 35, also died at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital's burn unit as a result of the same fire.
His nephew Sohan, 16, is fighting for his life at the Intensive Care Unit of Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute. Sohan's condition is critical and his family is praying for his survival.
With tearful eyes, Faisal's sister Happy said, "The factory fire has ruined my family and has taken everything from me. The fire spread rapidly through the factory, and my family paid the price of the negligence of the owner."
The life of Durjoy, a 15-year old boy, is also hanging by a thread at the DMCH's burn unit.
Living just e few metres away from the factory, Durjoy was not supposed to go there on that ill-fated day because he was ill. But his mother requested him to go to the factory to collect his weekly wage.
Durjoy got stuck at the factory as the fire spread. He broke through the tin-shed boundary to escape the blaze. Then he jumped into a nearby ditch with fire engulfing his whole body. Suffering from severe burns that caused his skin to peel off, Durjoy shouted for help.
But no one came to his rescue. Most people were busy running away from the fire.
Durjoy went to his mother for help in such a condition. He was then admitted to the DMCH burn unit.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Durjoy's father Mintu Miah said with sadness in his voice, "Our life has always been full of suffering. My boy tried to give us some relief, but who will fight for us now? His is in immense pain and on the verge of death."
On Thursday morning, the doctors discharged Durjoy on the request of his family, as his body has 100 percent burns. His mother took him home so that he can breathe his last on his mother's chest.
Alam, 35, went to the factory after having lunch on Wednesday afternoon. He rushed home with burnt clothes and face.
"He asked for water and shouted 'help, help.' We manage to douse the fire on his body, but he did not survive his injuries in the end," said his wife Ruma Akter.
Alam died in the wee hours of Thursday. To make matters even more tragic, his brother Abdur Razzaq died at the DMCH's burn unit just few hours later, after being burnt in the same fire.
Dr Samanta Lal Sen, who also serves as the coordinator of Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute, said, "Among the 18 injured victims, none are out of danger. All of them are in critical condition.
"Many have 100 percent burns because they could not get out of the factory."
He also urged the authorities to raise awareness regarding fire safety, saying that it is high time for the initiative.
"We have to be stricter on such cases. Thirty-one workers got burnt, that means almost 31 families were destroyed. They are not at faults here, then why should they have to suffer?" said Samanta.
Unauthorized factory and deadly fire
The fire broke out at a plastic factory named Prime Plate and Plastic Industries Ltd at Hijaltola in Dakkhin Keraniganj upazila's Chunkutiya area on Wednesday. At least 33 people were taken to the hospital in critical condition after the incident.
Nasrul Hamid Bipu, the lawmaker of Keraniganj, also said on Wednesday that the factory was set up without authorisation.
Another fire occurred in the factory in February this year, he said while visiting the injured workers that night.
The Keraniganj plastic factory was previously fined for non-compliance.
While visiting the scene of the fire, KM Ali Azam, secretary to the labour and employment ministry, said an inspection team of the ministry had visited and fined the factory for non-compliance on November 5.
A case was also filed over this, the secretary added.
On an inspection of the spot on Thursday morning, Abul Hossain, deputy director of Fire Service and Civil Defense told the media, "During primary investigation, we found that the factory did not have enough fire safety measures.
"There was a lack of sufficient exits through which the staff could evacuate during an emergency. A probe committee has been formed to look into the matter."
The labour ministry also formed a five-member probe body to investigate the reason behind the incident, and identify those responsible.
Local people alleged that the factory was being run in a residential area without following proper rules and regulations.
Around noon on Thursday, some protesters blocked the road in Keraniganj for some time and chanted slogans demanding the removal of the plastic factory from their locality. They also claimed that the factory owner was operating in the area by bribing many senior administration officials.
The families of the deceased have already been provided with Tk20,000, and the government has announced that it will bear all treatment expenses of the injured victims, said the state minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman, while visiting the patients at the DMCH.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour and Employment gave Tk50,000 to each injured victim of the fire, and Tk100,000 to each of the families of the deceased.