A Tragedy of Nimtoly 33 ward of South Dhaka city (Former 69)

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A Tragedy of Nimtoly 33 ward of South Dhaka city (Former 69)


Fire has invented for better living and building structure developed for improved and comfortable livelihood. With the course of time the desire of comfort and improved living concluded the acceleration of building construction. The alarming rates of population growth together with fragile economy instigate people to live in urban areas. Limitations of urban land together with high claim of building infrastructure compel creation of high rise building. Excessive of cost of land and clumsy regulatory and planning authorities helps to construct building of larger floors and levels than the normally allowed.

Thus the urban areas mostly Dhaka city has transformed to a hectic city engaging its inhabitant into the approximately all types of artificial hazard of life menacing. Fire is one of those hazard whose frequency mounting day by day mostly in buildings. In Dhaka fire is an uncontrollable risk especially in high rise buildings mostly constructed violating the national building code. The frequency of fire event is common in Dhaka city, mainly in dry season. Fire occurred in the slum areas, garments factories and manufacturing industries are common news topic during the season. Because of fire incidence there are loss of numerous lives and valuable properties in the city.


Dhaka is the capital city of Bangladesh and the largest city in the country. As the center of both national and municipal government administration, the city is experiencing a construction boom, particularly with respect to roads and larger modern buildings. The growth in infrastructure presents both challenges and opportunities.

The lack of appropriate mechanisms to guarantee fire safety in new development remains to be one of the outstanding issues. These include building approval process, provision of additional fire fighting facilities, and fire safety regulations. The consequences had been dense building concentrations, flammable building materials, narrow roads, improper installation of electrical system, and others. These are only some of the visible issues connected with the high rate of urban fire incidences. Lack of funding to repair damaged infrastructure facilities, such as fire hydrants, electrical system, and roads also contribute to fire vulnerability.

Looking at Dhaka city closely, one would be simply stupefied to see the frightful chaos that has now endangered the lives of millions and millions of its residents. What is required under the circumstances is not shifting focus on this or that problem as they arise but to look at all of these great living hazards for its people in totality as the outcome of a lack of a planned city.

Dhaka and its suburbs are considered to be holding no less than 14 million people. A big part of this population has their homes in the old part of the city. The population density is also the greatest in these older parts of the city. But the old city presents a spectacle of complete chaos that keeps the people here hostages to a devastating fire incident.

Any modern city must be zoned properly between residential, industrial, commercial and other areas. But rows and rows of dingy buildings are found in old Dhaka which was never planned for safety. The structures have hardly any spacious stairways for the urgent exiting of people. The maze of these buildings are served in most cases by alleys so narrow in some cases that even two rickshaws cannot pass side by side in them. In case of a fire incident, the large vehicles of the fire service find the narrow lanes and by-lanes practically impassable. Besides, as the latest tragic fire incident showed, these buildings house both humans in large number as well as quickly inflammable materials of all sorts such as plastics, chemicals, polythene, etc. Make-shift factories of all kinds abound there from polythene bag making ones to plastics industries of the cottage type. The gas lines in these areas are often found leaking and prone to causing accidents on coming in contact with even a slight spark from somewhere.

The rapid urban growth greatly increases the vulnerability of the country’s major population and economic centers. Increasing urbanization in the context of Dhaka presents major challenges and opportunities for the reduction of disaster impact in the future. While floods have the greatest impact to the country’s population as a whole, fires cause the greatest loss of life and property in the urban areas. Dense building concentrations, narrow roads, flammable building materials, aging water supply and electrical system, as well as the lack of resources to upgrade preparedness and response skills have resulted in a growing risk of large scale, multiple structure fires. Fire incidents are very common in Dhaka city, especially in relatively densely populated areas. The damage of property and loss of human life are intensified by different factors. The number of fire incidents in Dhaka was 1,861 in 2003, 2,053 in 2004, and 2,279 in 2005 (The New Age, February 10, 2007). Not only in Dhaka but also other major cities which have dense and unplanned urbanization suffer the wrath of fire from time to time. For instance, fires broke out at Rahattarpul and Badurtala in Chittagong on 10th March, 2006. The fire, which originated from an electric short circuit, burnt assets worth about Tk.7 lakh, the fire officials said (The New Age, March 11, 2006).

Number of reported fire incidences in Dhaka city

Name of the Month Number of fire incidents Assumable damage Assumable rescue Loss of life
January 1233 334579500 574284500
February 1828 352165300 486172200 Japan Garden City death toll 7, Garib and Garib Co. death toll 21
March 1967 294589000 663983300
April 1819 177068600 929989000
May 1396 392708700 679583300
June 971 636665805 890282806 Nimtoly death toll 119
July 892 524635205 780566530
August 936 567745305 910399707
September 815 538750420 879755910 Lili Chemicals death toll 10
October 845
November 1057 747743251 1027524512
December 1162 95526500 1049536000 Hamim Group death toll 26, Khilkhet Mosquito Coil death toll 6
Total = 14921 5321118531 9870600976 189

This paper provides an analytical description about social vulnerability assessment to fire hazard on word number 69 of Dhaka city.


Fire Hazard is a most common phenomenon in Dhaka city. Unplanned high rise buildings, over population, lack of responsible government may be the main causes behind this.

The specific objectives are:

· Know the spatial and temporal dimension of fire hazard in 69 number word of Dhaka City

· Identify the causes of fire and its effect in study area

· Recommendation for mitigation of onset of fire


Fire is the rapid combination of oxygen with fuel in the presence of heat, typically characterized by flame, a body of incandescent gas that contains and sustains the reaction and emits light and heat.

Hazard has been defined as a chemical or physical condition that has the potential for causing damage to people, property or the environment. It can include an inherent chemical or physical characteristics such as acute toxicity, corrosivity, or the potential for fire and explosion. Hazard could also result from conditions of operation, such as high temperature or pressure, or the combustion of operating conditions and chemical characteristics.

All chemicals exhibit acute toxicity at some level of exposure and many chemicals are flammable, so we invariably want to know “how hazardous is it?” There have been many attempts to qualify the degree of hazard based on inherent chemical characteristics, including in regulations.

Once we understand the inherent hazard of the chemical, it is possible to develop the technological and administrative system, commensurate with the type and degree of hazard, so we should need safely manage the chemical.

In Bangladesh a few study has so far been made on fire hazard and some other related issues. M. has done a thesis paper for his degree of masters of Science in 1986. There he suggests a model fire hazard assessments model and select fire hazard zones in Dhaka. Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, maintain fire service and civil defense week. Every year and they published a book yearly. Only fire service and civil defense gather and compiled fire incidence data, but fire data are not available in other organization so, in the absence of proper and available data the comprehensive study on macro level still lacking. The literature reviewed by the researcher has been summarized as follows:

BFSCD, every year BFSCD maintains fire service and civil defense week and published a souvenir with the information about fire incidence, where, when and how fire occur, number of death and injure, amount of property losses, lack of their instruments and activities, recover etc. BFSCD compile fire incidence data in their control room. They also has library that provide journal which helps to take information about fire and fire hazard.

Safer Cities 7, AUDMP


The Lao PDR Urban Disaster Mitigation Project (LUDMP) was launched in July 2002 under the Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Program (AUDMP) of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC). The main objective of the project is to reduce disaster vulnerability of population, infrastructure, and economic assets in the Lao urban areas to fire and traffic accidents. It focuses on

establishing systems for risk assessment and disaster mitigation and incorporating such system into the urban development planning of Vientiane and other major cities and communities in Lao PDR.


The Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Program (AUDMP) is the first and largest regional program implemented by ADPC. The AUDMP started in 1995 with core funding from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) until 2004. The program was developed with the recognition of increased disaster vulnerability of urban populations, infrastructure, critical facilities and shelter in Asian cities. In an environment where good governance and decentralization are high in most countries’ political agenda, AUDMP aims to demonstrate the importance ofand strategic approaches to urban disaster mitigation as part of the urban development planning process in targeted cities of Asia.

AUDMP supports this demonstration by building the capacity of local authorities, national governments, NGOs, businesses and others responsible for establishing public and private sector mechanisms for urban disaster mitigation as part of city management. AUDMP also facilitates knowledge sharing and dialogue between key stakeholders to promote replication of AUDMP approaches to other cities and countries worldwide. Currently, the AUDMP approaches have been introduced and sustained by national partner institutions in targeted cities of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR,

M. (1990), M. studied about “a fire hazard assessment model and fire hazard zone in Dhaka SMA.” In his research he illustrated about fire hazard and among the major factors argumentation fire proneness of the city are used to highly inflammable material for housing, and open flames for cooking, lighting and heating in low income residential area, maintenance of little or no fire gap between and among structure, faulty systems of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and frequent incendiary attacks on vehicles during political disturbance. In addition lack of segregation of land uses, congested roads lanes and by lanes, storage of water supply, and above all, the general lack of fire fighting knowledge of citizens have made extinguishment extremely difficult when fire breaks out.

Manuals of fireman ships (1993), a journal was published from the home ministry of London and in this journal highlighted that the contribution of hazard brought about by the introducing of new materials to considered the most important ways in which materials, in the fire context, can affect hazard. It will be noted that some quite small fires, involving limited amount of plastic materials rapidly give rise to large volume of smoke. A difference is that where as the smoke from what might be considered traditional materials used in furnishing could be controlled or dispersed by ventilation, the behavior of plastic materials is different in that ventilation not only increase the rate burning but also increase the rate of smoke production.

The rapid production dense smoke and toxic gases means that time available for escape from the upper floor of the normal domestic dwelling may be as little as two or three minutes from onset of flaming combuston. This partially accounts for the fact that over recent years the number of people requiring rescue from fires in the UK has increased substantially.

To prevent the spread of fire within the building provision is made is subdivide the building into compartment with restricted floor on cubic capacity. This is done by means of compartment walls and compartment floors which are elements of structure and there for requires fire resistance. The objects have two fold;

1. To prevent rapid fire spread which could trap the occupants of the building.

2. To reduce the chance of fires becoming large on the basis that large fires are more dangerous not only to occupants but to people in vicinity of the building.

When fire occurs in a building it is essential that fire appliances and personnel can approach the building as quickly as possible. Different types of appliances will require different access conditions. The turning circle of a turntable ladder will be larger than that of a pumping appliance and probably the clearance height will also be greater. Fire testing, if correctly designed and carried out may in some cases, be the only available and reliable indication of a materials behavior in a given fire situation. It can thus be a vital factor in giving detailed answers to questions put in identifying and assessing fire hazard.

It must be remembered that fire behaves is a complex manner and any information gleaned from a particular fire test must not be over-estimated on taken as a prediction of a probable course of an actual fire. It can only predict the behavior of the test material in the restricted situation of the test itself. A fire test result that shows as acceptable performance by the tested material can never be taken to guarantee a safe situation.

METHODOLOGYIn order to fulfill the objectives of the study an empirical approach has taken. Following this approach a plan was prepared to collect data

frothavailable relevant sources


Figure: Dhaka City with selected study area

Geography is concerned with environmental and human interrelationship in a spatial context. Thus the main concern of the study is to find out the spatio-temporal dimension of the fire hazard situation with the passage of time in Bangladesh. The various steps of the methodology are:


Word number 69 of Dhaka City Corporation is selected for the study. The main purpose of the study is to examine the spatio-temporal dimension of the fire hazard situation. Fire is a social hazard, which can occurred both in urban and rural areas. Fire hazard are mostly occurred by activities. It can occur in houses, shopping malls, in water bodies, in forest; several causes are responsible for fire hazard. So, to show the spatio-temporal dimensions of fire hazard in study area. For in depth study Dhaka City Corporation is selected to risk analysis for short period of time (two years).


Dealing with any real life problem it is often found that data at hand are inadequate, and hence, it becomes necessary to collect data that are appropriate. There are several ways to collecting the appropriate data which differ considerably in context of money costs, time, and other resources at the disposal of the researcher (Kothari, 1996). In this practical research purposes data were taken two ways:


Primary data was collected through questionnaire survey by structured and semi structured questionnaires. For collecting data through questionnaires, 4 categories of sample population were selected. It will be also helpful to know the causes of fire hazard and its effects. The categories are Kacha, Semi Kacha, Pakka, and High rise building (5th storied and above). Data were collected from shops, ware house, factories, residential areas, and high rise apartments. 50 settlements (4 categories) were surveyed in the study area using questionnaires. For the selection of individual households random sampling method has been adopted. Data also comes from a survey conducted on Fire Service and Civil Defense head office in Dhaka Division.


Secondary data have collected from official records like library, journals, yearly reports, statistical year book, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), daily news paper etc. Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense collect data and compiled those data in their own format and every year they published a year book when Fire Service and Civil Defense week they maintained. Key Informant Interview (KII), comments have been received from BFSCD officials and data also received from published books and journals.


Data collection is one of the most problems in this type of studies. Fire hazard data collection is hard to due to its nature of data. Study and fire hazards issue in Bangladesh is surround by manifold problems. The present study is constrained by lacks of sufficient information and statistics. The main problem of the research is that there is not sufficient location information about occurring of incident relates to fire hazard. More time was required to fulfill the wide coverage in this research work. The study have to completed within a short period of time. It has affected the selection of methodology enhance the result of study may be affected too. The study has some limitations about data collection. It also can affect the result of study. There may have some limitations in the data summarization in the analysis of data. However taking all the collected information into consideration it has been tried to present and high light these as much as accurately despite many limitation faced a researcher.


After collecting raw data from field work, data were transferred to reference table. Then, the data were processed manually and presented mainly to tabular form. For easy understanding data were analyze using percentage.

For data analyze several techniques were used.


Collected data from different sources were compiled, tabulated and analyze through MS Excell.

· Frequency of fire incidence has been done by the following equation (Clarke, 1986)


At T

Fire frequency (Ft)

Where, Nt equals the number of incidence of fire in a thana during the Period T, At equals the area of the thana (in Sq. Km) and T equals the time period (in years).


In graphic methods, the results of statistical data were presented by pie diagram, bar diagram and histogram etc.


Fire fighting, Mohora, Recover, Losses, Death, Casualty and various serious incident of fire are presented by ph



Fire service and civil defense is one of the most important department of Bangladesh Government. It plays a vital role in providing safety and to lives and properties of the people. The importance of this department is on the increase with the industrialization, modernization and urbanization of the country. It has become an inseparable component of industrial and urban areas of the society.

Fire Service was set-up in the year 1948 soon after separation of Indo-Pak Sub-continent in 1947 which continued till 1982.The present directorate of Fire Service & Civil Defense was created by amalgamating the erstwhile Fire Service and Civil Defense Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Rescue Service under the Ministry of Communication in the year 1982. as the responsibilities of these Department / Services wear inter related.

Fire Service and Civil Defense Directorate of Bangladesh like elsewhere, in the world is one of the lead government agencies, which is responsible for responding first during any disaster. We have been working hand in hand with all other government as well as non-government organization in the management of natural and man-made disasters. Needless to say that Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country, which regularly experiences natural disasters such as flood, cyclone, tornado and medium low level earthquake. as Bangladesh is an earth quake prone country, it is predictable that major earth quake may attack this country at any time. So, to cope up with the probable vulnerable situation Bangladesh Fire Service & Civil Defense taking Step to increases modern equipments and skilled rescuer through short term & long term training plan with regards to Collapsed Structure Search & Rescue (CSSR).

The aim of Bangladesh Fire Service & Civil Defense is to provide training to the people with regards to preventive and precautionary measures of different types disasters, fight the fire, rescue trapped persons, render first aid and transports victims from vulnerable area to safer place acting as a first responding department.

The motto of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense is `Speed, Service & Sacrifice.’

Objectives of the fire service and civil defense of Bangladesh are:

To minimize the destruction of wealth and properties of the Nation

To minimize the number of casualties

 To minimize the number of death.

The word fire is a chemical processes, which involves burning of any substance(combustion). The combustible material that burns with the help of oxygen result in the production of heat and light is called fire. Fire is not always harmful but only when goes out of control (Raihan, 2006)


Fire is defined as a chemical process involving rapid oxidation of a combustible material producing heat and flame. Fire thus involves a chemical union between oxygen and fuel (or combustible material) the has a temperature raised to its ignition point by addition of heat (Martin and Kanury, 1982)

Fire code

Fire code
F Find
I Inform
R Restrict
E Extinguish or Escape

Source: workshop on fire hazard management, 2006


Table 2.1: Fire types

Class of


Combustible material Suitable extinguishing media/equipments/tools
Class A


Wood, paper, textile, rubbish, jute, hay, coconut, tobacco 1. Water type fire extinguisher

2. Dry powder fire extinguisher

3. Water jet and water spray

Class B


Petrol, gasoline, paraffin, diesel and other petroleum products such as paint, varnish and turpentine 1. Foam fire extinguisher

2. Dry powder fire extinguisher

3. Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher

4. Water spray fire extinguisher

Class C


Methane, propane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and other 1. Dry powder fire extinguisher

2. Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher

Class D


Potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and other 1. Dry sand fire extinguisher

2. Soda ash fire extinguisher

3. Dry powder fire extinguisher

Class E


Fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, computers and other electrical sources. 1. Dry chemical fire extinguisher

Source: Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, 2006


Fire spread by several processes as follows:

CONDUCTION: Metal such as copper, aluminum and steel are good conductor. These metals become hot when exposed to fire. The heat is spread along the length of the metal. If the metal is in direct contact with a fuel the temperature of the fuel will rise to the ignition temperature where spontaneous comb station will occur.

CONVECTION: When fire occurs the surrounding air is heated and expands, thus becoming buoyant. The light air rises and is replaced by cool air, causing air circulation. This process transfers the hot air and other fire products to the upper floors through the lift shaft, escalator and unprotected duct. This phenomenon will reslt in the vertical spread of the fier to the upper part of the building, thereby preventing the occupants from leaving the building.

RADIATION: Fire spread can occur through radiation, radiation is heat transferred through electromagnetic waves. When fire occurs, heat is transferred through radiation whereby beating up the surrounding and when a certain combustible is exposed to radiation becomes extremely heated to the point of ignition, the process of decomposition occurs and the combustible involved will spontaneously so of ignite.

( Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense).

Figure: Fire in Nimtoli Area

A ‘normal’ fire is caused by the decomposition process which is a series of chemical reaction known as a chain reaction. The main contributing factors of fires are as follows:

Table 2.2: Factors of Fire

Natural factors Fire caused by a disaster or a natural factor
Accidental factors Fire caused by negligence, carelessness of human error
Incendiary Fire caused by a deliberate of treacherous human act

Source: Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense


A potential damaging physical events, phenomenon or human activity that may caused the loss of life or injure, property damages, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.

Hazard can include latent conditions that may represents future threats and can have different origins: natural (geological, hydormeorological and biological) or induced by human processes (environmental degradation and technological hazard). Hazard can be single, sequential or combined in their origin and effects. Each hazard is characterized by its location, intensity frequency and probability (Alan 2006).

Fire is both a friend and foe mankind but a single incidence of such a devastating, may cause enough damage in one area than fire become hazardous. It also defined as any fire that was deported to at least one of the fire service station of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense. There are some sources which will help us to know about fire hazard. These are:

2. Short circuit (for electrical wins and switch board)

3. Naked light

4. Unmindful smoking

5. Mechanical heat and spark

6. Explosive and fire works

7. Radiation

8. Spontaneous combustion

The probability of harmful consequences or expected losses (death, injuries, properties, livelihood, economic activities, disrupted or environmental damages) resulting from interaction between natural or human induced hazard and vulnerable condition. Conventionally risk is expressed by the national Risk-Hazard × Vulnerability. Some discipline also include the concept of exposure to refer particularly to physical aspects of vulnerability. Beyond expressing a possibility of physical harm is crucial to recognize that risk are inherent or can be created or exist within social systems. It is important to consider the social context in which risk occur and that people therefore don’t necessarily share the same perceptions of risk and their underling causes (Alan 2006).


For identifying the hazard it is necessary:

1. Identify possible sources of ignition and verify their position with regard to the flammable materials

2. Analyze the layout of room and exit in case of emergency

3. Organize the fire fighting service

Table 2.4: Identify fire hazard by source

Type of source Example
Flames or smoldering sources · Smoking materials

· Oil-fires boilers

· Hot work such as flame cutting and gas welding

Hot surface · Hot places

· Exhaust manifolds

· Heating pipes

· Faulty machinery

Sparks · Mechanical sparks from welding friction

· Electric sparks

· Spark from electrical discharge

· Electric arc welding

Electrical overheating · Over loaded wiring on equipment with a short circuit or a short to earth
Spontaneous combustion · Rotting vegetable matter

· Chemicals or organic materials


Figure: 33 number word of Dhaka City Corporation


Observed data:

Education level People aware of fire People not aware of fire Total
Below primary level 0 8 8
Primary level 0 10 10
Secondary level 0 19 19
Higher secondary level 0 3 3
Graduation 5 5 10
Total 5 45 50

Expected data:

Education level People aware of fire People not aware of fire Total
Below primary level 0.8 7.2 8
Primary level 1 9 10
Secondary level 1.9 17.1 19
Higher secondary level 0.3 2.7 3
Graduation 1 9 10
Total 5 45 50

We get expected cell by following formula:

Expected cell =

Chi-Square test:

Let Null hypothesis (H?): Awareness of fire hazard are equally/evenly distributed within all education group people.

Alternative hypothesis (H1): Awareness of fire hazards are not equally distributed within all education group people.

Significant level: 0.05

Confidence level: 95%

Chi-square test formula:


O = Observed value

E = Expected value


?² + + + + + + + + +

= 0.8 + 1 + 1.9 + 0.3 + 16 + 0.089 + 0.111 + 0.211 + 0.033 + 1.78

= 22.229

Degrees of freedom, df = (K-1) (C-1)

= (5-1) (2-1)

= 4

Degrees of freedom 0.05 0.01
4 9.488 7.779

Alpha (probability level) 0.05, the critical value of ?² at 0.05 alpha level is 9.488 and our calculated value is 22.229, which is higher than the critical value. So null hypothesis is rejected than means awareness of fire hazards are not equally distributed within all education level people.


Table 01: Settlement pattern of Surveyed area:

Comments: According to the pie chart we can easily see that 76% Settlement pattern is high rise building.

Table 02: Number of victim people in the surveyed area:

Comments: According to the surveyed area we see that 18% more people are affected by fire.

Table 03: Seasonal variation of fire incident occurred:

Comments: According to the pie chart we can see that 50% fire incident occured in the time of winter season and 46% fire occurred in the summer.

Table 04: In what time most fire incident occurred:

Comments: The research find that 88% fire occured in the time of noon and night.

Table 05: The reason behind fire incident:

Comments: My Surveyed area is 69 no ward in Nimtoli, where most fire incident occurred by chemical warehouses.

Table 06: Knowledge about put out from fire:

Comments: Maximum people (More than 94%) do not know how to extinguish fire.

Table 07: Own arrangements to deal with fire:

Comments: According the bar chart it can be said that 100% people in my research area do not have own arrangement to deal with fire.

Table 08: Received training to extinguish fire:

Comments: No people received training to extinguish fire.

Table 09: Received any post fire accident training:

Comments: According to the bar chart it can be said that no people received post fire accident training.

Table 10: Enough space to enter fire service car:

Comments: Fire station is very near to my survey area but lack of knowledge about fire and enough space to entrance fire service car is only reason of danger.


The terrible tragedy of the Nimtoli blaze which claimed 123 lives, drew attention to the improper storage of chemicals in residential neighborhoods in Dhaka. Since the two transformers nearby fueled the blaze, another factor which deserved attention was the burning transformers, and how to improve transformer safety. This paper gathers further eyewitness accounts from the site of the disaster, and attempts to draw conclusions about the involvement of the transformers and future precautions. The literature on transformer failure is studied, so as to learn from the transformer explosion in Nimtoli. As part of the research, a series of photographs, attests to the hazardous placement of 11 KV transformers and communication cables. A case study is the recent fault in an 11 KV feeder which set fire to nearby communication cables. The proximity of communication cables to 11 KV ransformers, and the general jumble of communication cables in the streets may be greatly improved, by better planning of all parties involved.


On June 3, 2010, Bangladesh had its worse fire in recent memory, when 6-8 buildings in old haka caught fire, and 121 people lost their lives. Although 50-52 tons of volatile chemicals in a makeshift warehouse greatly fueled the flames, the contribution of the transformers to the flames is irrefutable. From various media accounts of the event [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8], a picture can be reconstructed of the tragedy, and lessons can be learnt about our practices with transformers and communication cables. Although the event has drawn attention to the storage of dangerous chemicals, the placement of two 11 KV transformers were suspect. The risks with communication cables are illustrated from a July 2010 fire from an 11 KV line spreading to the communication cables. This incident, where the author was present, did not make it to the news.


According to most eye-witness accounts, the Nimtoli fire started at about 8:45 pm, and spread to a chemical warehouse. Locals and fire-fighters said the blaze started in a five-storey building, where an engagement function (Panchini) was going on. On the ground floor of that building, cooks had been preparing food since early afternoon.” “For long exposure to intense heat from stoves, chemicals stored in adjacent room caught fire round about 8:45 pm. Soon flames engulfed the buildings and shops.” Sparks from electric wires and gas leaks are believed to have added to the ferocity of the blaze. The flammable chemicals acted like shooting lava, and spread the fire to surrounding buildings. There was no escape, as the flames, prevented people from leaving their buildings. At some point, the transformers near

the area exploded, throwing the whole area into darkness. Though the exact origin of the fire is unclear, it is known that 50-52 tons of chemicals stored in a five-storey building had swelled the flames, accounting for such high casualties. Considering the contribution of the transformers to the flames, the High Court directed the authorities of Dhaka Electric Supply Company (Desco) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) to examine all the city’s transformers by an expert committee, and submit a report to it within three weeks. The two power utilities use approximately 12,000 transformers, 8,000 of them installed by DPDC and 4,000 by DESCO, to supply electricity to the capital city, said officials.


According to some eyewitness testimony, and according to Brig Gen Abu Nayeem Md Shahidullah, director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence, there is a small possibility the blaze may have started from the transformers. Some testimony in support are as follows:

1. “Some said explosion of two transformers had started the fire, while some others said it began at a bakery and then spread to the transformers.”

2. “Some witnesses said explosion of two transformers at Nawab Katra of Nimtoli started the fire around 8:45pm, while others said it all began at a bakery and then spread to the transformers.”

3. “Witness Billal Hossain, who was around 150 yards away from a transformer, said the transformer exploded and sent fireballs in three alleys. It also sent a mushroom of fire upward that came down spreading the fire in nearby buildings, he said.”


As part of this research, the Nimtoli area was visited a number of times by the author. The main location of the fire is shown, with the two transformers, the chemical warehouse (behind the grill), and the garage site of the cooking (figure 1). The cooking for the wedding was moved from under the transformer to inside the garage area, from where the heat moved to the chemical warehouse on the right. The small tea shop, with its open stove and flame, is seen in the right.

Figure 1. The main location of the blaze, showing the two transformers, the chemical warehouse behind the grill, and the garage or site of the cooking for the wedding (photo by author).

A shopkeeper and some others who were close by at the time, said that the fire had not started with the transformers. Rather, the chemicals had heated the transformers which then exploded. According to Harun, a resident of the area, the cooking for the wedding was being done just under the transformers. When the rains started, the cooking and the makeshift stove was moved into the garage area, adjoining the chemical warehouse. At some point, the cook put out the stove, and went away. After some minutes, a blanket of fumes emerged from the warehouse slowly advancing on the ground, spreading right and left along the street. All of a sudden, the fumes caught fire, immediately burning everyone who was standing on the fumes. Adjoining the warehouse was a tea shop, and a Bakhorkhani shop, which had their own stoves, which may have given the first spark to the fumes being emitted from the warehouse. The fire spread immediately to the chemical warehouse, creating the lava-like flow along the street. These were thrown like lava along the adjoining buildings, setting fire to them. The transformers were just above the chemicals, and they too caught fire from the heat below. A few other residents of the area corroborated Harun’s testimony above. As the chemicals heated the transformers which then exploded, throwing the area into darkness, it is clear the transformers were energized when they exploded. The explosion may have been less destructive, if the transformers were taken offline, when they were being heated by the chemicals. According to the testimony of locals, it is unlikely that the transformer was the original source of the fire. However, it is clear that the transformers had caught fire from the chemical blaze, and had then contributed to the fire of the nearby buildings and the casualties in human lives. The proximity of the transformer to the first floor window is seen in figure 2. This window is also right below the apartment where the wedding was taking place. Judging from all accounts, the greatest possibility is that there was an overheating leading to a vaporization of the transformer oil. The vaporized transformer oil, upon ignition from external flames would cause an explosion and prolonged fire.

Figure 2. The first floor (just below where the wedding was taking place) showing the proximity with the burning transformers (photo by author).


The Nimtoli tragedy should inspire us to look again at our practices with transformers, such as their proximity to apartments, and communication cables. First and foremost is the placement of transformers. Considering that transformers are 11 KV, oil-filled explosive devices, and can burn sometimes for hours, they should be placed far away from human inhabitation. Figures 3 and 4 show common violations of this fundamental requirement. Considering that a large number of transformers are already in these situations, preventive maintenance or replacement of the transformers should be done frequently. If excessive harmonics in the power lines is a problem, the transformers should be operated at diminished capacity. After the fire, fuse cutouts were used as protective devices, in spite of the inherent risks of improper replacement of fuse wires (Figure 5) [16].

Figure 3. Another transformer placed close to an apartment in the Nimtoli area, illustrating the risk of an explosion or a fire.

Figure 4. A transformer in the Banani area of New Dhaka, showing the proximity of communication cables with 11 KV transformer and lines.

Figure 5. The Nimtoli building, with its new fuse cutouts, although they pose a risk because of improper fuse replacement.

failures for all ranges of transformers. A good maintenance program should include the following recommendations to help achieve maximum service life.


A planned program of maintenance, inspection and testing would significantly reduce the number of transformer failures for all ranges of transformers. A good maintenance program should include the following recommendations to help achieve maximum service life.


The electrical loading should be kept within the design range of the transformer. In liquid-cooled transformers, the top oil temperature should be monitored. Transformers should be installed in locations that are compatible with their design and construction. On-line transformer monitor systems should be considered for the most critical transformers. There are a number of on-line systems currently on the market, where a variety of probes and sensors are connected to a data acquisition unit [DAU], that provides for remote telecommunications through a modem. The systems also incorporate an “expert system” to diagnose the problem and distinguish between events that are harmless and events that are dangerous.


Another risk is the close proximity of communication cables to 11 KV transformers, as seen in figures 4 and 5. The rapid proliferation of communication cables over the last few years has caused a major jumble of cables over the city streets (Figure 6). Three different types of cables are seen in the figure.

1. BTCL local loop twisted pair

2. Co-axial cables for cable TV etc.

3. Fiber-optic cables

The biggest problem with BTCL cables is that some personnel resist any modernization and systematization of the existing wiring to the homes. Fiberoptic cables are kept coiled in the streets so as to accommodate any future expansion.


In about July 2010, an 11 KV feeder at the bridge joining Baridhara and Gulshan caught fire, and set fire to the surrounding communication cables (Figure 7). The spectacular flames on the communication cables, slowed traffic on the bridge and gathered a number of spectators. In the figure, the burnt communication cables have since been replaced. The incident did not make it to the news.

Figure 7. An 11 KV feeder which caught fire, and set fire to the surrounding communication cables. The scorched shielding of the feeder is seen, but the communication cables have been replaced.


The Nimtoli blaze has deservedly drawn attention to the storage of chemicals in residential areas, but it should also draw our attention to practices with transformers and communication cables. The flaming transformers contributed greatly to the death and destruction at Nimtoli. Regarding our practices with transformers, overloading or excessive harmonics are often a problem, and the appropriate larger size of transformer should be used. Communication cables are also a risk as illustrated by the recent fire set on communication cables, owing to a shorted 11 KV feeder.



Managements mean using men and resources to achieve the goals of an organization, a program, a project or a venture. In the processes, a manager is to make the effective use of a number of management strategies involving man, material, money, machine, methods, moment, movements and above all motivation (Rahman, 2001). It is a spatial type of emergency management. It is an applied science, which seeks by the systematic observation and analysis of disaster to improve measures relating to prevention, mitigation, preparedness, emergency response and recovery. To mitigate the hazard situation the following management cycle can be applied.

Preparedness: Includes the information of a viable counter hazard plan, maintenance of inventories of resources and the training of the personal.

Response: Response measures are usually those, which are taken immediately prior to an following occurrence impact with a view to saving life and protecting property.

Recovery: Means the processes by which communities and the nation are assisted in returning to their proper levels of functioning.

Prevention measures: Aims at impend the occurrence or to minimize its harmful effects on communities.

Mitigation: Includes the measures aimed at reducing the impact of a hazard on a nation or a community.

Fire is chain reaction of fuel, heat oxygen and chemical. For fire management it is necessary to maintain the following things.

Never complete the figure triangle:

· Where there is fuel and air keep heat away

· Where there is air and heat keep fuel away

· Where there is heat and fuel keep air away

Understanding the three sides of the fire triangle, and being able to recognize them in every day situation is the key to fore prevention.


There are some laws universally accepted to prevent fire hazard. Those laws are cited below.

· Control or eliminate the source of ignition

· Control or eliminate materials that are easily ignited

· Use non-combustible material

· Use and select materials with low negligibility


Management of fire is important because of

· Prevention is better than cure

· Saves life and valuable asset

· Economical

· Quality management

· Legal

· Obligation

Considering the importance of fire hazard management various steps are taken for management.


To remove or reduce the hazard impact we need to d o following things

· Remove unused combustible materials. Store the combustible materials in fire resistant structures. Separate sources of ignition from flammable materials

· Remove unnecessary heat sources and use safer ones

· Check the safety and maintenance status of electric and mechanical equipment, and repair them if necessary

· Do not use open flames (gas, lighters, cigarettes, etc) in risk areas


Establish fire fighting measures

Escape routes Fire extinguisher Fire alarm
Reduce distance to exits

Provide adequate number of emergency exit

Provide alternative emergency exit

Limit to crowing

Always keep the exit way clear

Provide an adequate number of the fire extinguisher, according to the kind of combustible materials present

Provide hose reels and sprinklers system if necessary

Periodically verify the functionality and maintenance of fire fighting equipments

Provide a fire alarm system


In case of fire timely and effective action requires the cooperation of all those involved

· Every second is precious, the rapidity of the alert and action is crucial

· Panic is the first enemy to fight, as it is an obstacle to proper, effective action. Information and training will help to overcome the panic

· Escape routes must be cleared of any obstacles and emergency exit must never be locked. The escape routes and exit way must be checked every day.

Fire fighting procedure must be established in advance and with the participation of all the workers, in order to:

· Immediately fight the (extinction) to limit dangers, rapidly and clearly alert (alarm) the internal and external rescue teams (ambulance, fire department)

· Plan an easy escape from places involved in the fire (evacuation), in a fast and orderly way.


Train a sufficient number of workers in fire fighting (using extinguisher) and evacuate procedures.


· Type and quantity of materials

· Crowing of workplace

· Work activities

· Equipment and system


· Remain clam

· Immediately alert the floor supervisor and other workers

· Try to extinguish the fire with nearest extinguisher, remove any flammable materials that may close by and, if possible, switch electrical devices off, without putting oneself in danger

· If the fire can’t be controlled, sound the general alarm, then contact the fire department and ambulance service

· Leave the building through the nearest exit or escape route, closing exit and windows when leaving rooms

· Persons with disabilities should be assisted out of the building

· Go to a designated evacuation are (emergency head quarters), located in a safe place

· Check the missing workers

· Gather information from escapees and arrange rescue operation with the help of fire department


· If you have to pass through the smoke, stay low, protect nose and mouth with a wet handkerchief

· Pay attention on opening the doors, if the door feels hot, do not open it and look for a different escape route. If there is no alternative, open it staying low and as far back as possible

· If there is smoke or fire covering the first escape route, use an alternative one

· Do not run if your clothes catch fire, cause air feeds flame

· Get down on the floor and roll to smother the flames, take your clothes off. Someone close to you can take a blanket, carpet, etc to wrap around you and some other the falmes


· Any anomaly such as the presence of flames, smell of burning overheating equipment, object or materials, electrical sparks, gas leaks should be signaled immediately

· Periodical controls and maintenance staff should be carried out on fire protection equipment, alarms, emergency equipment and system, as well as on electric machin