DHAKA: At least 70 people have died in a huge blaze that tore through apartment buildings also used as chemical warehouses in an old part of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, fire officials said today.
Dozens of people were trapped in the buildings, unable to escape onto narrow streets clogged with traffic, as the highly combustible stores of chemicals, body sprays and plastic granules erupted in flames.
Fire control room official Mahfuz Riben told AFP that 70 people had been killed while Bangladesh’s fire service chief Ali Ahmed said the death toll could rise further.
“The number of bodies may increase. The search is still going on,” he told AFP.
Ahmed said the blaze at Chawkbazar in the old part of the city may have started with a gas cylinder before quickly spreading through a building where chemicals were stored.
The flames raced through four adjoining buildings, which were also used as chemical warehouses.
“There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape,” he said, describing a part of town where the streets are very narrow and residential buildings stand just centimeters apart.
Witnesses said members of a bridal party in a nearby community center were also caught in the fire and many of them were injured.
Deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ibrahim Khan said at least two cars and 10 cycle rickshaws were burned in the fire.
“The victims included passersby, some people who were eating food at restaurants and some members of the bridal party,” he said.