Dhaka skyscraper hit by deadly blaze

DHAKA - At least nineteen people have been confirmed dead after fire broke out in a 19-storey commercial building in Dhaka on Thursday, officials said, weeks after a deadly blaze in the Bangladeshi capital left at least 70 people dead.

Six people died after jumping from the 22-floor building while another victim suffered fatal burns, officials told a private news agency.

Several people are still believed to be trapped inside the tower in the Banani area of the Bangladeshi capital, according to The Daily Star news website. “When I heard a fire broke out in the building, I quickly rushed out of the building,” Shoikot Rahman told the news agency.

“Many of my colleagues are still trapped in the office,” said Rahman who ran to safety after hearing colleagues raise the alarm, narrowly escaping the smoke and flames engulfing the building.

There was no official word on how many people were trapped inside. People were seen screaming for help from windows, while some lowered themselves down the side of the building.

“Three people appear to have died afer jumping from upper floors of the building,” United Hospital spokesman Sazzadur Rahman Shuvo told. They had serious head injuries but no apparent burns. He said at least eight other people were being treated at the hospital.

A military spokesman, Abdullah Ibne Zaid, said the body of a Sri Lankan man was brought to the army’s Kurmitola Hospital and another 45 people were being treated there. Another fatality was reported at the Dhaka Medical College hospital. Helicopters dropped water on the blaze as flames and thick black smoke poured out of the windows.

Scores of firefighters were backed by navy and air force specialists, authorities said. Al Jazeera’s Tanveer Chaudhry, reporting from Dhaka, said “at least six people have jumped off the building.”

“There are 95 emergency services working and helicopters hovering above ... trying to rescue some people from the roof as well. “The fire took place on the 9th floor of the building but we don’t know under what circumstances.”

Fire disasters regularly hit Bangladesh’s major cities where safety standards are notoriously lax. A massive blaze in Dhaka’s old quarter on February 21 killed at least 70 people and injured 50 others.

Fire service officials said chemicals illegally stored in an apartment building exploded and set alight five buildings and nearby streets. That blaze took more than 12 hours to control.

A June 2010 fire in the nearby neighbourhood of Nimtoli, one of the most densely populated districts of the capital, killed 123 people.

In November 2012, a fire swept through a nine-story garment factory near Dhaka killing 111 workers. An investigation found it was caused by sabotage and that managers at the plant had prevented victims from escaping. 

Authorities are still carrying out a drive to close down illegal chemical stores and warehouses in apartment buildings, launched after last month’s disaster in the old city.


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