Inferno kills at least 70 in Dhaka apartment blocks

The fire erupted at Chawkbazar in the old part of Dhaka

The fire erupted at Chawkbazar in the old part of Dhaka

The death toll from a fire in a centuries-old area of the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, jumped dramatically to 70 on Thursday (Feb 21), a fire official said, and could keep climbing as fire fighters combed the wreckage of the destroyed building. "It spread so quickly that people could not escape", the fire chief said. They exploded as the fire spread, witnesses said.

Dhaka: At least 69 people were killed as a massive fire on Wednesday night ripped through several buildings also used as chemical and plastic warehouses in an old part of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

"So far, 56 bodies have been recovered".

Chemicals used for household products were also stored in the nearby buildings.

For many, the incident recalled another blaze in Nimtoli, 1 km away, on June 5, 2010, that resulted in 124 people dead and one of the worst fire tragedies in the city's history.

According to a police inspector based at Dhaka Medical College Hospital another 45 people were injured, four of them critically.

"There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out", he said.

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Victims included people outside the buildings, some guests at a restaurant and members of a bridal party, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ibrahim Khan told AFP.

There are hundreds of electrical, telephone and internet cables hanging on to the narrow lanes posing a danger for the local people in Chawkbazar. "As the situation deteriorated, I somehow managed to close the shutter of my shop and ran", he said.

Sohag Hossain, one of the injured, told the Daily Star that he and two friends were working at a plastic factory in one of the buildings at the time of the fire.

But the most serious threat come from the fact that residential buildings are used for commercial purposes, with ground floors serving as chemical and gas cylinder warehouses.

Crammed with tightly-packed residential and industrial buildings, some just inches apart, the district dates back to the Mughal era more than 300 years ago.

Suddenly, they heard a huge noise.

Many buildings in Bangladesh lack adequate fire safety measures and the enforcement of fire regulations in factories and apartment buildings is lax.

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