Shock in Bahrain, Bangladesh as probe into tragedy launched

May 29, 2012

Bahrain was on Monday still reeling from the death of 10 Bangladeshis in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The ten died early on Sunday after a fire broke out in their unregistered accommodation in East Rifaa, 20 kilometres south of the capital, Manama. The fire is thought to have been sparked by a short circuit at 4am. The Civil Defence, medical staff and neighbours tried in vain to save them.

Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the prime minister, ordered an urgent investigation into the tragedy and directed the ministries of interior, labour and municipalities and urban planning affairs to look into its causes and ensure there is no repetition.

Prince Khalifa, who was chairing the weekly cabinet meeting, offered his condolences to the bereaved families and instructed the competent authorities to follow up repatriation of the blaze tragedy victims’ bodies.

Bahrainis said that investigations and strong action by all sides, including the workers, should help ensure a safer living environment for vulnerable people.

However, while many blamed the greed of those who mercilessly crammed expatriates in small rooms that lacked basic hygiene and safety standards, others said that destitute workers were also putting their lives at risk by accepting in cheap and dangerous accommodation to save money.

In 2006, 16 Indians died in a blaze tragedy in a labour accommodation in the capital, Manama. The shock prompted officials to intensify action to carry routine checks of the accommodations used by unskilled labourers.

However, labour officials said after the East Riffa blaze that they were not aware that the property, two windowless rooms within a residential property designed for a maximum of five people, was used as labour accommodation.

An Asian man reportedly rented out the building to the victims who were illegal residents with no fixed job and who were doing odd jobs, including cleaning cars.

Police Chief Major General Tariq Al Hassan who visited the premises said that the Bangladeshis lived “in a cage with no windows or ventilation.”

Bangladesh’s Financial Express identified nine of the victims as Mohammad Hanif (60) of Kalonia Moger village, his brother-in-law Mohammad Suleman (42) of Jashpur village, and son-in-law Monir Hossain (30) of Jamia village, Nurul Islam (45) of Monipur village, Anwar Hossain (40) of Uttarda village, Siddiqur Rahman (35) of Buschi village and Abu Taher (38) of Susanda village in Sadar South upazila of Comilla, Abul Hossain (35) of Chouddagram upazila, and Syed Ahmad (40) of Hajiganj Upazila of Chandpur district.

The Daily Star reported that the news of the deaths came as a terrible shock to the families in Comilla.

Ayatunnesa, wife of Mohammad Hanif, was quoted as saying that she had spoken to Shaheen’s father [Hanif] for the last time on Friday.

“He was supposed to send home money for the marriage of our daughter by June 2. But he is no more,” she said. “What shall I do? Allah has taken him away. How shall I survive with my five daughters and a son without him?”

Her brother Khorshed Alam and son-in-law Monir Hossain were among the 10 workers.

Hanif was a rickshaw mechanic and driver before leaving for Bahrain ten years ago by borrowing a good sum of money, his elder brother Nurul Islam told the daily.

“He was yet to get rid of poverty. So he did not return home in ten years,” Islam said, adding that Hanif wanted to come back only after paying off the debt.

Ayatunnesa said her son-in-law Monir went abroad two and a half years ago by borrowing money. “Who will now repay the loan? I just don’t know.”

At Siddikur Rahman’s residence where relatives were mourning his death, his mother was inconsolable, the daily said.

“I talked to Siddikur on Friday for the last time. Where shall I get back my dear son?” she cried.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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