Deadly gas explosion at Moghbazar

The Daily Star June 29, 2021

Editorial

Authorities must punish those responsible and prevent recurrence of such incidents

We’re deeply saddened by the news of a deadly explosion in a building in Moghbazar, Dhaka on Sunday evening that killed at least six people, including an infant, and left about 50 others with various degrees of burns and injuries. Primary investigations have suggested that the blast may have been caused by accumulation of gas from a leakage. It will take some time to establish the reason and gauge the true extent of the damage, but it has been reported that the impact of the blast was so powerful that it shook several nearby buildings. Eyewitnesses have described how the ground floor of the building—where the explosion took place—was reduced to a mound of rubble, with pieces of broken machinery strewn everywhere as the walls and pillars collapsed. The force of the explosion also shot some rubble into the busy road in front of the building, hitting people and passing vehicles and causing injury to many.

What makes this incident outrageous is how easily and frequently such gas explosions are taking place. Only last September, another gas explosion took place in a Narayanganj mosque killing 34 people and injuring many more. In this case too, the blast took place due to accumulation of leaked gas from an underground Titas Gas pipeline that came into contact with an electric spark from the air conditioners at the Baitus Salat Jame Mosque. In the Moghbazar case, although the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner ruled out the possibility of sabotage, investigators have termed it “unusual” for such a powerful blast to occur from gas accumulation alone. They have also found traces of hydrocarbons, a compound of hydrogen and carbon. Whether there was any external intervention will be hopefully revealed by the probe committee, but this much is evident by now that a gas leak played a part in this and as such, Titas Gas, a repeat offender in such cases, cannot avoid its responsibility.

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Titas has long been accused of doing little to prevent unsafe or illegal gas connections leading to many explosions, big or small, fatalities and injuries. This is what happens when corruption and lack of accountability are allowed to go unabated and compromise public safety as a consequence. After each such incident, we see the authorities scramble to control the damage and pledge action to bring those responsible to justice and prevent the recurrence of such blasts. But they keep on happening, leaving behind a trail of devastation. The six who died in the latest case were victims of a systemic failure to prevent such tragedies. Thus, we urge the government to take a long, hard look at the root causes of such gas explosions and take urgent measures to prevent them for good. The victims and survivors of the Moghbazar explosion have our deepest compassion and we hope necessary action will be taken to address their and their families’ sufferings.

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