One of the fire-ravaged shanties in Topsia on Friday. Picture by Bibhash Lodh
A three-year-old child, a teenager and two others died in a fire sparked by a leaking cooking gas cylinder at a Topsia shanty on Friday morning.
Police said the incident happened around 11.30am at the Dharapara slum cluster off Tiljala Road.
Witnesses said three victims — Mohammad Tahid, 3, Muzibur Rehman, 17, and Sabir Ali, 34 — were in the room where the fire started and they fell unconscious as thick smoke filled the low-roof dwelling in a narrow lane.
The fourth one to die is 52-year-old Tahira Bibi.
Thirteen others, including Tahira’s daughter Pinky, suffered burns as the fire and smoke engulfed the lane.
Doctors at MR Bangur and Sambhunath Pandit hospitals, where the injured were being treated, said the condition of nine people was critical. “They suffered 80 to 90 per cent burns,” a doctor said.
“The fire started when Kaji Golam Mustafa lit a matchstick to light the gas stove for cooking a feast. The entire room was in flames within seconds,” said an officer of Topsia police station. “A gas cylinder leak sparked the fire. Mustafa has been admitted to MR Bangur hospital.”
Taheed and Sabir were present in the room and they died of asphyxiation and burns. “The fire spread to an adjoining shanty. Rehman was injured when he tried to enter the room and rescue his relatives inside. Those in the lane leading to the shanties from Tiljala Road didn’t get a chance to escape as flames burst out of the burning shanties,” the officer said.
Most of these people fell unconscious because of the scalding heat and smoke that hung over the area even after the fire was doused. “They couldn’t breathe… the air was so thick with smoke,” said the officer.
“Some tried to run towards Tiljala Road but leaping flames cut them in their tracks,” he added.
“The fire raged until the cooking gas in the air burnt out. Combustible material like clothes, plastic and furniture sustained the flames and we had a tough time because of lack of space in the congested lane,” a firefighter said.
Five fire-trucks were sent to the spot but the flames had weakened by then. A fire brigade official said: “When we reached there, smoke was billowing from two adjoining shanties. We sprayed water and cleared the debris.”