By Raqibul Alam, IFRC

On the night of 20 February 2019, a massive fire which began either from a gas cylinder or a transformer blast razed Churihatta, Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined by local authorities, yet the incident was considered the third biggest fire in history, causing over 60 deaths and numerous injuries according to the media. The fire engulfed neighboring buildings including a community center. It took 37 fire-fighting units 15 hours to douse the flames.

For Bangladesh Red Crescent staff volunteers, their mission was clear – to respond immediately to the incident and support local authorities. Around 100 Red Crescent volunteers and staff from the disaster response, restoring family links and youth teams including urban volunteers were mobilized to the area as firefighters worked quickly to control the fire. The Red Crescent assisted the local authorities by helping treat the injured through first aid, helping reunite separated families through their restoring family link service, transporting the wounded to hospitals and ensuring the dignified management of casualties from the fire. A team of one doctor and one paramedic from the Red Crescent worked tirelessly on the site to provide emergency health support.

“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families of those affected by the fire. No words can express our sadness,” says Rafiqul Islam, Deputy Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. “At the same time, we would like to offer our sincere thanks to the Red Crescent volunteers who have been working hard, tirelessly, hand in hand with government agencies and local communities. We are planning to further enhance our emergency response capacities, particularly in establishing a prompt deployment mechanism with the necessary protective gear and equipment in an urban setting.”

Mr Rafiqul was part of a delegation that also included the Bangladesh Red Crescent Secretary General and Directors of Disaster Response; Youth and Volunteers; Restoring Family Link and Training. The Red Crescent established three service posts from the beginning of the incident near the site of the fire and in two medical colleges to help reunite people with their families. A Red Crescent hotline number was also set up for people seeking more information about the Red Crescent response.