Officials found two holes in an underground gas pipe adjacent to the Narayanganj mosque and expert teams were examining a second pipe last night about six feet under its stairwell.
The pipe with two leaks was on the northern side of the three-storey building, said Md Mofizul Islam, deputy general manager, Narayanganj, at Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited.
Soon after the news, the company suspended eight of its officials and employees over negligence.
The authorities also issued them show-cause notices, but refused to say exactly why the actions were taken.
A fire at the mosque in Narayanganj city’s Talla area killed 27 and critically injured 10 others.
The gas pipe under the stairwell was about an inch in diameter, officials digging the site said, adding that there may be more leaks.
The pipe with the holes was three inches in diameter.
Mofizul Islam could not say whether the gas pipes were set up illegally.
The mosque management committee members said they do not have a gas connection and they never even applied for it.
“There is no need for gas at the mosque,” management committee president Abdul Gafur Mia said.
He again alleged yesterday that the mosque management committee had informed Titas officials weeks ago about possible leaks in the gas pipes, but the officials demanded Tk 50,000 for the repair work.
But the mosque committee member, who went to the Titas office, is now fighting for his life at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery.
Asked about it, Titas official Mofizul said, “This is absurd. They never applied to us [for the repair work].”
After Friday night’s fire, many people thought one of the air conditioners at the mosque had exploded.
MOSQUE MANAGEMENT ALSO BLAMED
Ziaul Haq, a resident of the area, said the building had an illegal electricity connection.
Mosque management committee president Gafur admitted, “Yes it was illegal.”
But that line was cut after the last Ramadan, he added.
The mosque management committee members knew for at least over a month that there were leaky gas pipes, because they saw constant bubbling in the rainwater and often smelt gas in the air inside the mosque.
People of the neighbourhood said the committee should have pressed Titas officials harder.
Grocery store keeper Bazlur Rahman said, “Such matters were handled by the committee secretary. There is a rift between the secretary and the president. If they worked together, the situation would have been different.”
The development of the mosque used to be done with the assistance of people, and “the issue of a gas leakage is nothing big”.
People said the 51-member management committee has been running the mosque for the last six years.
The mosque is a three-storey building on a 10-feet wide street. The ground floor still bears the marks from Friday’s inferno. But the first floor is unscathed.
Titas officials yesterday deployed workers to dig the front and sides of the mosque to locate the pipes.
Firefighters and police have cordoned off the place and the gas connection to the neighbourhood had been suspended after the fire.
People of the highly congested neighbourhood of mostly working-class people are mourning the loss of lives and are also worried about legal harassment over illegal utility connections.
The mosque was built on eight decimals of land which was given by Mohammad Sardar and his brother Samsuddin Sardar and two others.
The foundation of the four-storey building was laid in 1991.
Asked about the building’s design, 60-year-old Samsuddin said, “I don’t know where the documents are. What I can recall is that the mosque was designed by an engineer.”