At 10AM yesterday morning a huge fire tore through the homes of hundreds of garments workers, in Tejgaon Industrial Area, Dhaka. Residences include the employees of clothing factories supplying to the EU and US market. While luckily no one was killed, many have been severely injured and the residents of Begunbari, must now attempt to rebuild their homes and communities.
Figure 1 A Young Women Distraught After Losing Everything in the Fire
Their makeshift homes are made of corrugated tin and iron, with families sharing rooms in cramped living quarters. Some are married couples with both partners working in the nearby factories, and many still are sole income earners for their children and dependents. Cooking and washing is done in communal spaces, with 10 or more families sharing the same units. Meals are prepared using gas stoves, a hazard which it is suspected to have resulted in the fire. With close living space, and no fire safety precautions, the fire quickly spread.
Figure 2 Local Residence in Begunbari next to the area destroyed by the fire
The rent of a small room on this government owned land, is between 2500 – 3000 BDT (£24-30 per month), a large proportion of their already low salary. Most sewing operators in Bangladeshi factories earn between 3000 -5500 BDT (£30-50 per month). Many of those living in these communities are garments workers, rickshaw pullers, and domestic workers. With inflation currently at 7.9 per cent, living costs are increasing while wages have remained stagnant, leaving workers with no ability to deal with disasters when they occur. With their income paid in cash, and no access to insurance schemes, any savings that these women and men have managed to secure, has gone up in flames along with their homes. Locals estimate that the costs to rebuild the area will be in excess of £10,000 not accounting for replacement of clothing or household items.
Figure 3 Locals clearing the debris
In the mean time, the locals are doing what they can, housing is being provided by friends and relatives, and they are attempting to clear up the debris of the fire. Many can do nothing but watch, sleeping outside if they have nowhere else to turn. Some food is being provided by the government and NGO: BRAC. Yet whether this money is reaching those with the most need, nobody can tell.