Two FR Tower owners remanded after deadly fire

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Two major owners of FR Tower were on Sunday remanded in police custody for seven days for interrogation in a case filed with Banani police station on Saturday following the fire in the 23-storey building on March 28 that killed 26 people.
Dhaka metropolitan magistrate Sadbir Yasin Ahsan Chowdhury passed the order after hearing a remand petition of the police who produced Faruque Rupayan Tower Owners Association president and Qausem Industries managing director Tasvir Ul Islam and owner of the land SMHI Faruque before the court.
Earlier on March 30, Banani police box in-charge sub-inspector Milton Dutta filed the case against Faruque, Tasvir Ul Islam and developer Rupayun Group chairman Md Liaquat Ali Khan Mukul on charge of, among others, causing deaths by negligence and damaging by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy the building.
Tasvir and Faruque were arrested on Saturday night and early Sunday while police officials said that Rupayun Group chairman Md Liaquat Ali Khan Mukul went into hiding.
‘We are yet to find him out,’ Dhaka Metropolitan Police additional commissioner (Detective Branch) Abdul Baten told reporters at its media centre on Sunday when asked about Liaquat.
He said that they would investigate whether enough measures were taken to make the building fireproof.
‘If you bring criminal charge in every issue, none can work and if their links are found in the investigation, they will be prosecuted too,’ said Baten when asked why The Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha or or other government agencies were not prosecuted for their poor supervision.
Rupayan Group adviser Sadat Hossain Salim declined to comment about the whereabouts of the group chairman but one of his colleagues told New Age that Liaquat was scheduled for March 29 to visit Singapore for medical check-up.
One of the investigators said that Liaquat left Bangladesh for Singapore on March 29 and the investigation was assigned to them on March 30.
In the court hearing, defence counsel Ahsanul Hoque Somaji argued that Tasvir was only the owners of the top five floors of the building and neither set the fire and nor was in charge of the fire safety of the building.
SMHI Faruque’s son Faruq Hasan wondered why his father was arrested and argued fire not even originated from their floor. The fire originated from the floor owned by businessman Salim Ullah but he was not named in the first information report, said Faruq.
A panel of lawyers placed documents for Faruque in the court arguing that he had filed a general diary in 2008 following a fire stating that the building lacked enough fire safety arrangement.
His lawyer Tuhin Howlader argued that Faruque had not endorsed the the expansion of the building up to 22nd floor from 18th..
The Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha probe committee found that the FR Tower was not presently safe for use.
‘Until we complete tests, none should use this building’, Rajuk probe body member Mehedi Ahmed Ansary, also Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology professor, told reporters after visiting the building on Sunday.
He said that they would need about 150 days to get final reports.
Mehedi also said that the probe body had found inadequate fire safety measures in the building while the existing ones were faulty and remained unused during the fire.
In an open hearing on the spot conducted by probe bodies formed by the home and disaster management ministries, the users of the building said that they were unaware of any emergency exit of the building and none of the survivors came out the blaze using the exit.
The probe bodies said that the so-called emergency exit was found locked and blocked on different floors while other fire safety measures, including fire hose pipe and extinguishers, were not used.
Disaster ministry probe committee convener Faizur Rahman said that they interrogated at least 24 witnesses on the first day of their open hearing but none of the fire survivors was aware of emergency exit.
He said that the trapped people neither heard fire alarm nor ever attended any fire drill.
‘We found unused hose pipes and fire extinguishers on different floors,’ said Faizur, adding that the committee would submit its report by April 3.
‘The aim of our open hearing is to find out the cause, origin of this fire and get suggestions
from people on the ground to fight such fire,’ said home ministry committee convener Tarun Kanti Sikder.
The additional secretary of the ministry said that they primarily found that fire originated from electric short-circuit on the 7th floor and spread to 8th and 9th floor of the 23-storey building.
He said that none of the 24 witnesses used the narrow fire exit because it was locked or blocked on different floors and was not usable.
The probe committee however failed to get any witness from 7th floor of the building.
Tenants of the floor Kafil Uddin and Moin Uddin reached the spot after the probe bodies left the area at about 1:00pm.
‘There was no smoke on 7th floor,’ said Kafil, one of the two staff of the floor was present during the incident.
He said other 17 staff of Spectra SN Tex Ltd was out of the office.
Three days after the fire police allowed the building users inside the tower to check their goods.
Md AL Mamun, assistant manager of EUR Group, a corporate house on 11th floor, said that valuables of their
building were stolen after the fire.
Offices on nearby buildings resumed operation on Sunday as the Dhaka Power Distribution Company reconnected power lines for them on Saturday.
Ashraful Islam Kollol, an executive of nearby Safura Tower, said that they were in panic as fire safety situation of their building was almost similar.
Nearby Primeasia University students held a human chain at about 1:30pm demanding fire safety in their buildings.
Dhaka North City Corporation continued building a shed over the Kamal Ataturk Avenue in front the building for resuming traffic.

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