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Investigate cause of Gulshan market fire: NHRC chief

04 January 2017 bdnews24.com

A thorough investigation is needed to find out whether the fire that ripped through a mall in Dhaka's Gulshan was an act of sabotage, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chief Kazi Reazul Haque said on Tuesday. The massive fire that ravaged the DNCC Market in Dhaka's Gulshan-1 is yet to be put out, 13 hours after it erupted in the wee hours of Tuesday.
As many as 23 firefighting units are battling the blaze while portion of the two-storey building has collapsed.
NHRC Chairman Kazi Reazul Haque arrived at the spot in the afternoon with the fire yet to be put out completely. Speaking to the media, he said the authorities should also look into whether the building had adequate fire-safety equipment.
"An investigation is needed to find out whether it was an accident or an act of sabotage." Haque said that apart from the fire service's probe, a separate inquiry should be launched jointly by the police, shopowners and local residents.
The fire service is yet to comment on the cause of the fire, but some of shop owners claimed that it was a sabotage. "It's (the fire) the handiwork of those who were conspiring to tear down this mall as it would yield a profit of millions," Delwar Hossain, who owned a toy shop on the first floor, told bdnews24.com.
The two-storey mall had almost 250 shops. Furniture shops occupy a large portion of the ground floor along with some eateries and a kitchen market on the eastern side.
The businesses on the first floor traded in food products, apparels, cosmetics, ornaments, toys and electronics. The kitchen market association Vice President Humayun Siddique said the mall was build in the early 1960s and the kitchen market was established in 1982.
Siddique, also the local Awami League ward unit's general secretary, said that in 2003, the then Dhaka mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka floated a tender for the 18-storey 'Gulshan Trade Centre' without consulting the shop owners. The contract was awarded to one Amin Associates Overseas Co, a concern of Metro Group and deal was signed, he said.  It was, however, put on hold during the military-installed caretaker regime and a new deal was signed, when the Dhaka City Corporation's ownership in the venture was raised to 37 percent.
The association's President Sher Mohammad said that a legal battle between the business owners and the City Corporation is on over the matter. "Some City Corporation officials and the Metro Group are involved in this sabotage," he told bdnews24.com. The fire-service is yet to zero in on the cause of the fire.
"A building has collapsed. There have been no casualties, but flammable liquids and other dangerous materials are all over the place," said Fire Service Director (Operations and Maintenance) Shakil Newaz.
Dhaka North Mayor Annisul Haque, however, ruled out sabotage and said he suspects an electrical malfunction caused it.

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