Dar es Salaam. The night life in Dar es Salaam is one of the most robust in the region with certain sections of the expansive city getting known for wild parties
The years of economic boom which has made Dar become one of the fastest growing cities in Africa has come with a fair share of a cultural shift with a population of almost 6 million.
The thirst for night life has led to the mushrooming of several night clubs amd lounges in suburbs such as Sinza, Tabata, Mikocheni, Kinondoni and many others.
However, a recent survey by The Beat shows that most of these so-called pleasure share a common feature.
They are poorly ventilated, overcrowded, with no smoke detectors, most lack firefighting equipment with no clear exit signs in the case of an emergence.
There are some that are located on the high-rise buildings that would make evacuation such a huge task.
These are supposed to be comfort zones but instead they turn into more of a death trap and a ticking time bomb in the waiting.
But come dusk, all and sundry prefer the corner nightclubs to quench their thirsts after a hard day’s work with all caution thrown to the wind.
To them gone are the days when they used to flock the city centre’s night clubs to catch a drink and perhaps a dance as well.
In almost every suburb, what were once shops or houses are now big time party zones which do not only sell beer but also play music with LED TVs to provide live coverage of both local and European football leagues.
The VJs have fast replaced the DJs as the music played is often beamed on the screens as well.
To match the advancement in technology many have multiple sockets to enable patrons charge their smart phones.
To some the emergence has come due to the enforcement of the law that doesn’t allow public performances and bars to go beyond midnight. Though this is not a new law, it is one that had been ignored for quite a long time and the only places that are allowed to sell liquor beyond midnight are clubs with night club licenses.
Like some of the beach hotels around some of these clubs are grass thatched and as a certain insider says, it is to suit the scotching temperatures.
“I don’t see any reason why I should run the risk of going to town in the evening and yet I can get the same thing here at the neighbourhood,” says Cathy Alphonse a university student at Mabibo Hostel.
To many like her, clubs and lounges have come in handy to solve their thirst for entertainment.
But as brawny bouncers usher revellers into these joints after some rudimentary security checks, and the party begins, many are oblivious of the danger of the makeshift nature of their surroundings.
Most of these establishments, do not have clear marked emergency exits as required by the law and even where there is, it is either not clearly marked or the club is too small to accommodate even the smallest stampede.
They also in most cases lack smoke detectors with shoddy windows which can’t allow easy flow of oxygen in the event of a fire outbreak.
The entrances and exits are so small that it can hardly allow three people at ago and a stampede would be inevitable in the event of such accidents.
“I go to these clubs but when you look at some of the joints, there is no escape route it’s more of a dungeon and I just can’t imagine what would happen should fire break out,” says James Marwa.
In 2008, some 19 children perished in a stampede after a fire broke out at a night club while celebrating an Eid fete in Tabora.
The over populated Club Bubbles had no fire escape route and apparently its jerry-built doors could not hold the fear stricken crowd.
And then there was the tragic Brazil fire. The fire broke out in a nightclub in southern Brazil when a band’s pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing partygoers stampeded toward blocked exits in the ensuing panic.
At least 233 people were killed instantly. According to reports most of those who died were suffocated by toxic fumes that rapidly filled the crowded club after sparks from pyrotechnics used by the band for visual effects set fire to soundproofing on the ceiling.
Firemen say one exit was locked and that club bouncers, who at first thought those fleeing were trying to skip out on bar tabs, initially blocked patrons from leaving. The security staff relented only when they saw flames engulfing the ceiling
There was a single exit from the Santa Maria nightclub. Images of other revellers trying to dig a hole at the back of the club to rescue trapped loved ones were very horrific.
Though most are licenced by the relevant city authorities, there are fears that some of these night club operating in the city are unlicensed to carry out such duties but the gravest concern is their poor architectural designs.
According to a fire officer with Knight Support who preferred anonymity, most clubs do not observe safety procedures.
“It is a prerequisite that a club that holds more than 100 people should have signs to lead people to the assembly points,” he says.
Unfortunately very few night clubs have assembly points and some that have the space usually turn it into a parking area.
Fire exit signs are worn out and there are some that just don’t have these signs at all.
He adds: “But the onus should also be on the club goers to demand for these things though it is basically the responsibility of the proprietor.”
Clubs like Elements, Maisha Basement could be an example from where the others can draw inspiration from.
However, even with such strides, the appalling nature of the mushrooming night clubs which don’t meet the safety and environmental requirements, lays bare the level of negligence at these heavily patronised facilities.
But even then it is mind boggling why revellers and owners remain unmoved in the face of such tragedy.