Bangladesh: At least 19 killed, 70 injured in Dhaka high-rise fire

Officials warn death toll could rise, as 21 firefighting units bring blaze under control

At least 19 firefighter units try to douse blaze and rescue survivors in Bangladesh capital. Video: MAX Secure Limited

 

At least 19 people were killed and 70 injured in a fire in a 22-storey building in the Banani commercial district of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Thursday, officials said.

Officer Khurshid Anwar of the Bangladesh Fire Service said that 21 firefighting units had been dispatched to douse the blaze, which was brought under control late on Thursday afternoon.

Video showed at least one person falling from the building, apparently while trying to escape the fire.

Military helicopters joined the rescue operation, and one person dangled from a helicopter hovering over the roof as thick plumes of smoke cascaded upwards.

Firefighters on hydraulic lifts trained two hoses on the building.

Witness Sajib Hasan said some people shouted for help from windows on the upper floors of the building.

Heavy smoke deterred efforts by emergency personnel to get close to them, but Mr Hasan said he watched at least a dozen people be rescued.

Of the 19 people who died, Mr Anwar said, 13 were found inside the building in the evening.

Among the dead was a Sri Lankan citizen. At least 70 others were injured, and Mr Anwar warned that the death toll could increase.

The cause of the fire was still unknown as of Thursday evening.

Fires in Dhaka

Banani, the area where the fire broke out, is a busy commercial district with multi-storey buildings housing offices, universities and restaurants.

Tushar-or-Rashid, an employee of the Vivid Holidays tour company on the building’s first floor, said the fire began above them.

“All of our staff have come out safely but we don’t know what happened to the people who work in the upper floors,” he said.

Fires are common in Bangladesh, where building regulations and safety norms are often violated.

Last month, a fire in the oldest part of Dhaka, a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses, left at least 67 people dead.

In 2012, a fire raced through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 112 people trapped behind its locked gates.

Less than six months later, another building containing garment factories collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

Another fire in a house illegally storing chemicals in Old Dhaka killed at least 123 people in 2010. – New York Times and AP