At least 70 people have died after a fire broke out in an apartment building that was reportedly also used as a chemicals warehouse. The blaze also spread to nearby buildings. Officials expect the death toll to rise.
A massive fire broke out in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Wednesday night, killing and injuring dozens of people.
On Thursday morning, fire officials said at least 70 people were killed in the blaze, adding that the death toll is likely to rise.
Over 40 people were being treated for injuries, with many of them sustaining burns, a police official told news agency dpa.
"There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape," Bangladesh's fire service chief Ali Ahmed told news agency AFP.
The fire broke out around 10:40 p.m. local time in the Chawkbazar area of Dhaka, in an old part of the city where the streets are very narrow and many residential buildings stand just inches apart.
TV images of the site showed the main gate of one building was locked, leaving residents unable to escape the fire as it spread. Witnesses said that a bridal party in a community center were also caught in the fire and that many were injured.
Residential buildings housing chemicals
The blaze began in the ground floor of a four-story building, before quickly spreading to three neighboring buildings, fire officials said.
Mainul Khan, a journalist in Dhaka, told DW that the fire is believed to have started when a gas-fueled car exploded. It then spread to a building used as a chemicals warehouse. The other residential buildings that caught fire may have also served as places to store plastics and chemical goods, he said.
Over 200 firefighters worked to put out the blaze, which was mostly under control after more than nine hours of frantic efforts.
The fire has several similarities to a devastating Nimtoli blaze in 2010 at a building in Dhaka that killed more than 120 people.
Selim Newaz Bhuiyan, a former fire brigade official who was involved in the rescue operation in 2010, told DW "there is no difference between the accidents in Nimtoli and Chawkbazar."
Following the 2010 fire, city authorities had identified 800 chemical warehouses to relocate away from residential areas "but it didn't happen," he said.
Mostafizur Rahman, chief executive officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, told DW that chemical warehouses were supposed to be relocated through the industries ministry.
"But due to various complexities, the relocation has not taken place thus far," he said.
rs/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)