The guest house did not even have a proper ventilation system due to which smoke was accumulating inside the premises making it difficult for the boarders to escape through the stairs. The guest house, built about 15 years ago and aimed primarily at Bangladeshi guests, didn’t even have an emergency exit.
Commercial establishments and residential buildings must learn from this fire. Each property should check and, if necessary, upgrade its electrical wiring. Access facilities in older buildings should also be reviewed.
About 24 boarders occupying 15 guesthouse rooms on Saturday were forced to escape through windows after they smashed grilles and crawled on asbestos outside where locals helped them with ladders.
Police say the death toll could have been higher if some people who woke up for morning prayers at 4 a.m. hadn’t alerted everyone to the fire. The preliminary investigation revealed that the fire started because of a short circuit on the ground floor.
“We did not find any fire safety measures in the guest house. It’s like a powder keg from within. The smoke spread to other parts of the guest house within minutes. Some people were awake and alerted others, which is why so many lives were saved,” a senior fire official said.
Over the past two decades, several hostels and guesthouses have been established in the Free School Street-Sudder Street-New Market area that cater to Bangladeshi clientele visiting the city for medical treatment, shopping and have fun. While some big names follow government guidelines, there are plenty of guesthouses that flout safety rules.
“Most guesthouses ignore safety guidelines. They operate in old buildings and do not have multiple entrances and exits. There is also no water arrangement to put out the flames until when the fire department arrived,” said the owner of a hotel on Free School Street.
“We have repeatedly conducted awareness campaigns with hotel and guesthouse owners in the area, but it seems few are following the guidelines,” a fire official said.