Khulna high rises lack fire-fighting equipment

November 30, 2013

Most of the high-rise residential and commercial buildings in the Khulna city are extremely vulnerable to fire hazards, mainly in absence of fire protection and extinguishing systems, according to officials of the Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD), Khulna. As per the Fire Protection Act 2003, all the establishments must have sufficient fire safety equipment. Every floor should have at least two fire extinguishers, hydrant point, water reservoir and a tank on top which will always contain a certain amount of water. But the buildings constructed in Khulna city do not have enough fire safety equipment, emergency exits and space between the adjacent ones. Even, entrances of most of the buildings are too narrow. If a fire breaks out in a building, it will rapidly engulf the adjacent ones and take a heavy toll on life and property, say experts.
Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC), 1993, made legally binding in 2006, has fallen on deaf ears at the time when the high rises were shooting up to the sky. The tall structures may turn into death traps during any fire accidents. BNBC suggested ensuring fire retardant materials for structural construction, said Executive Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD-2) Md Sarwar Jahan. It also asks builders to install fire-fighting equipment and emergency exits, he added.
For city dwellers, fire safety in high-rise buildings has become a cause of concern, especially after a series of major fires that took a heavy toll on life and property in Dhaka in the last couple of years. The major fire incidents took place in the capital’s Tajrin Fasion,s garment, Basundhara City commercial complex, ETV and RTV Office (BCIC Bhaban).
Experts say more blazes could be seen in the dry autumn, winter and summer months between November to April every year. Highlighting the most common causes of fire eruption, the directorate sources said that functioning ovens and lamps, electric short circuit and other faults, sparks from chimneys and smoking material are quite common reasons behind the fire incidents. After visiting different multistoried buildings—Munna Tower, City Trade Centre, Fuji Colour Bhaban, Milton Tower, Hotel City Inn, Hotel Royal, Hotel Castle Salam, Hotel Western Inn, Hotel Park, Hotel Tiger Garden, Hotel Millennium, Khan Tower, Akunji Tower, Tribune Tower, Fatema Tower and many others, it was found that except some fire extinguishers hanging down from walls, they have neither maintained fire safety standards not took NOC from the FSCD, Khulna. Owners of those buildings, however, claimed that they have applied to the concerned authority for ‘no objection certificate’ and the setting up of fire safety equipment is underway.
Nearly a dozen private hospitals and diagnostic centres are reportedly housed in the high-rise complexes that don’t have adequate fire protection and other safety arrangements.
There are six units (Boyra, Khalishpur, Daulatpur, Tutpara, Dumuria) of fire brigades in the city, including a river branch, but due to the narrow lanes and lack of water, dousing fires with minimal damage is almost impossible, FSCD, Khulna officials said.
Deputy Director of FSCD, Khulna Md Golam Rahman told that the builders of the high-rise structures seldom cared for the amount of free space they were leaving around their projects, and some of the buildings had even been erected on narrow streets that could hardly host a fire engine carrying fire fighters or an ambulance, in case of an emergency.
He suggested deployment of trained private fire fighters at the high-rise buildings alongside adequate fire safety devices. Routine fire drills and emergency evacuations of the building are also necessary for the rate of casualties in similar cases of accidents to drop, Golam Rahman added.

-With The Independent input

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