At least 132 shanties were burned to ashes in a fire that broke out at Sattola slum in the capital's Mohakhali area on Monday night
Struggling to manage three meals a day, Shefali Akter, 25, arrived in Dhaka four years ago from Netrokona with her rickshaw puller husband, and three sons. The family settled in the capital's Mohakhali slum.
Not being able to make ends meet with her husband Uzzal's paltry income, Shefali started working as a domestic help. The couple used their income to support the family and repay a Tk3 lakh loan at their ancestral home in Netrokona.
But a devastating fire at the slum on Monday night gutted all their belongings, and their dreams as well.
"The fire burned all my valuables and furniture in just minutes, we could not save anything. I just woke up my three sons and ran to the street with our lives. We have nothing left other than the clothes on our backs," wept Shefali.
"We have had nothing to eat since last night. How will we repay the loans now? Where will we even stay?" she asked in a choked voice.
Her husband Uzzal was sitting in their fire-ravaged home, completely dumbfounded, shocked and unable to say a word.
The scene at the slum resembles that of a ravaged wasteland in a dystopic world, with too many helpless people stranded under the sky.
Like Uzzal, Nasrin (25) and her younger brother Rony (20) broke into tears in the gutted room where they stayed. After losing their father, the siblings came to the capital ten years ago in search of work. They settled in the slum, did odd jobs, and periodically sent money to their mother, at their village home.
Though Nasrin subsequently relocated after getting a job at a readymade garment factory, rickshaw puller Rony remained in the slum, with his wife Golapi. His sister rushed to the scene as soon as she heard about the inferno which ravaged her brother's belongings.
On Tuesday morning, Nasrin's sister-in-law Golapi was seen looking for something in the ashes.
When asked, she said that she was trying to find a gold ring given to her by her father during her wedding. She said, "We have been standing under the open sky and starving since last night. No one has even come to see us."
There are far too many similar stories of other slum dwellers who had lost everything in the fire.
Abu Reza Muhammad Masud, office assistant to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, said, "According to our primary assessment, 132 houses and 11 shops have been completely gutted in the fire. The total damage is still being estimated."
He said the damage could be around Tk1-1.5 crore, and the origin of the fire was still unknown on Tuesday morning.
However, according to the preliminary assessment conducted by Brac, at least 175 houses and 30 shops were burned down. Brac said that number may be higher.
Fire Service Tejgaon Area In-Charge, Mahmudul Hasan said, "The fire broke out at around 11.45 pm on Monday. The blaze was brought under control at 12.50 am after an hour-long frantic effort by 12 units of firefighters. However, no casualties were reported."
He said firefighters were investigating the origin of the fire, and how it spread so quickly.
According to Mahmudul, there had been three fires in the slum in 2012, 2015 and 2016.