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Bangladesh: Dozens killed in fire at residential high-rise

February 29, 2024

At least 45 people have died and many more were injured in a massive fire. Authorities say the blaze took place at a seven-story building in an upscale Dhaka neighborhood.

Volunteers and firefighters hold a hose above their heads as a lone fireman is seen silhouetted against a glowing blaze
Firefighters and volunteers were on hand to fight the nighttime blazeImage: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

Bangladeshi Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen said that at least 45 people died when a seven-story high-rise caught fire on Thursday in an upscale neighborhood in the capital, Dhaka.

Sen, who was the country's burn clinic coordinator before becoming health minister, said: "So far 45 people have died from the fire."

He added that some 40 people had been admitted to Dhaka's main burn clinic and that all 22 admitted with severe burns were in critical condition.

A chotic scene in which two women are surrounded by rescue workers outside a burnt-out apartment building in Dhaka, Bangladesh
About 75 people were rescued from the buildingImage: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

People trapped in burning building

Fire Department officials later said the blaze had started on the ground floor of the building, located on Dhaka's popular Bailey Road, at around 9:50 p.m. (1550 GMT), before quickly spreading through the building, trapping residents on its upper floors.

Fire authorities said a gas leakage or a stove could have started the fire.

Residents described harrowing moments in which some climbed down from their apartments using exterior drainpipes, others were injured while jumping to safety and others still were trapped on the roof, having no way to exit through stairwells engulfed in smoke. 

Those who fled to the rooftop were eventually rescued by fire and emergency services workers.

Bangladesh's lax fire laws make major blazes regular occurrence

Bangladesh's lax fire codes have become infamous over the years, with major blazes in factories and apartment buildings a regular occurrence. 

Gas cylinders, faulty air conditioners and bad electrical wiring are often the cause of the fires.

At least 52 people — including a number of children — were killed in July 2021, for instance, when fire engulfed a food processing plant.

Some 70 were killed in a Dhaka apartment blaze in February 2019 and at least 111 were killed in the country's worst fire that ripped through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in 2012.  

A fire rescue ladder towers as firefighters rescue residents trapped on the roof of a burning hi-rise in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Residents fled to the roof to await rescue Image: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

js/jsi (AFP, Reuters)