At a time when human hearts have been numbed or deadened by outrageous figures of daily global casualties from Covid-19, even unwarranted and tragic deaths reduce into just numbers. Yet agony mixed with helpless exasperation gives an uneasy feeling -one that seems rather irreconcilable. Had this predatory virus not prowled so unrelentingly, the large majority of the pandemic victims' lives would not be snapped so untimely. Father, mother, husband, wife, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and colleagues with whom one's life is so inexorably tied suddenly turn into mere numbers. The heart within bleeds profusely and still one has to suppress welling tears and emotion. Over time the regularity of deaths blunts sharpness of pangs and the loss of lives becomes an ordinary affair.
An unpardonable crime like this is what this virus has done to humanity. Human soul has been forced to undermine the inalienable bond that has sustained families, communities and societies everywhere. So merciless and voracious is its appetite that the virus is claiming people in their thousands even into the eighth month since its first detection in Wuhan, China in February 2019.
Yet tragedy suddenly unfolds without warning to leave a people in utter shock and trauma. The blaze that devastated a mosque at Talla in Fatullah, Narayanganj at the time devotees were yet to leave after offering their Esha prayer on Friday is one such tragedy. By Sunday noon as many as 23 of the 37 severely burnt devotees admitted to the Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute breathed their last. The first casualty was a seven-year old boy. The condition of the rest too was reported critical.
People go to offer prayer to mosques or places of worship in order to seek peace of mind and elevate their souls. They return home in a better frame of mind. But what has happened at the Talla mosque is beyond imagination. Tragedy has befallen the most unsuspecting people who assembled there seeking divine blessings. This is unbearably poignant. To families of the victims of the blaze it is unconscionable and inconsolable.
Now what caused the fire or explosion was unclear to experts who visited the scene of occurrence. Some reports indicate that the origin of the fire was the explosion of an air conditioner (AC) on the ground floor, which then triggered a chain reaction to explode all the ACs. Other reports --- also corroborated by locals --- blame leakage of a Titas Gas pipe line that passes underneath the mosque.
It would be premature to blame anyone for the mosque tragedy but the arguments and counterarguments put forward highlight that much of the condition leading to the tragedy is surely manmade or there was stupendous negligence on the part of a few.
Proper maintenance is not a plus point of this nation. Highly costly and/or sophisticated machines, infrastructure and facilities are subjected to outrageous neglect and ill maintenance, cutting short their longevity. Poor maintenance of ACs has already caused fires in several other places including at a reputed private hospital. Incidents of gas leakages have also led to similar tragedies in which entire families have been wiped out.
So, neither of the possibilities can be ruled out. But what gives a nauseating feeling is any possibility of the complaints locals made against the Titas Gas to be substantiated. They complain that they brought the problem with the gas line to the notice of the concerned office. But the office reportedly demanded Tk 50,000 for addressing the faulty line.
One hopes the three committees formed to find out the cause of the blaze will come up with the truth behind this soon. If wilful neglect on anyone's part is proved, the person/s must be meted out due punishment. This is the least the authorities can do in order to curtail chances of such tragedies in the future.