Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha or RAJUK, the development authority of Dhaka city, is waiting for documents and expert opinion on the building that partially collapsed after a blast in Siddique Bazar to decide its fate.
It could not check the papers to see if the building was constructed in compliance with the rules because Tuesday and Wednesday were public holidays over Dol Jatra and Shab-e-Barat.
Md Hamidul Islam, a director of RAJUK who visited the blast site near North South Road on Wednesday, said they believed the building was constructed during the 1980s, even before the establishment of the development authority.
“Everyone said that the building is about 40-45 years old. We can’t say anything before seeing the documents. The records officer has been instructed, and we’ll get the information soon.”
He said two committees were being formed – one by the RAJUK and the other with experts – to look into the building’s records and determine the condition of the building.
“A RAJUK director might lead a five-member committee which will include RAJUK officials from different departments. Another committee might be formed to recommend what to do after the incident. BUET professors will be on that committee.”
A massive explosion ripped through the seven-storey building on North South Road late on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the owners and employees at different stores inside the building, pedestrians and vehicles were also caught in the blast.
On Wednesday, the death toll increased to 20 as the rescuers pulled out the bodies of two more victims from the rubble while another died in a hospital. The search continued as at least one victim was still missing.
Locals said three brothers owned the building after the death of their father, the original owner who constructed it around four decades ago.
One of the sons, Mashiur Rahman, lives abroad. The other two, Wahidur Rahman and Matiur Rahman, looked after the building and were being questioned by police.
The fire service thinks the explosion was “an accident”.
The building housed sanitary stores and warehouses on the first two floors and the basement, with the shuttered Café Queen restaurant on the second floor. Though the restaurant has been closed for several years, locals still refer to the building by the name of the restaurant.
The first two floors collapsed on the basement after the blast, trapping people inside. At least one man was still missing on Wednesday night. Relatives were waiting in front of the building awaiting word from rescue workers.
There is only a two-foot gap between the devastated building and the one on its north. It has virtually no gap with the building on the south.
The families of the building’s owners resided on the third and fifth floors. Tenants lived on the upper floors.
SHOULD IT BE TORN DOWN?
The expert committee inspected the building on Wednesday night and said it would take two months to assess the structure's condition.
A committee member, Professor Mehedi Ahmed Ansary of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said the blast damaged nine of the 24 columns. It means 13 columns are supporting the structure now.
He said they would need around two months to determine if the building could sustain itself through retrofitting. For the assessment, they must first make the nine damaged columns stable.
If the columns come out to be fit for retrofitting, the process will take longer.
Prof Mehedi suggested appointing a third party for the assessment and retrofitting, as government agencies are incapable of such work.
“We also need to keep in mind that the building has become risky for the street and the other structures next to it.”
Dhaka South City Corporation put up a sign declaring the building risky.