Published: Sun, February 24, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

More than 80 dead as fire guts historic district in Bangladesh capital

More than 80 dead as fire guts historic district in Bangladesh capital

Bangladesh police said Friday that they were seeking up to a dozen suspects in connection with a fire in the oldest part of the capital and could charge them with negligence over the blaze that killed at least 67 people. "These are flammable chemicals that helped spread the fire quickly", Lt. Col. S.M. Julfiqar Rahman, a director of the Fire Service and Civil Defense, told reporters.

Earlier reports said 69 people died in the fire.

Most buildings in Chawkbazar are used both for residential and commercial purposes despite warnings of the potential for high fatalities from fires after one killed at least 123 people in 2010.

Bangladesh fire chief Ali Ahmed gave a death toll of 70.

Ahmed said it may have been started by a gas cylinder and quickly spread through the building where chemicals were stored in rooms alongside the apartments.

A number of people died while attempting to take shelter inside shops and other nearby buildings during the deadly fire in Old Dhaka's Chawkbazar on Wednesday night.

Over 40 people have been admitted to the hospital, said Sohel Mahmud, head of forensics at the hospital.

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Damian Chukwu, police commissioner in Borno, asked eligible voters to head to their polling units, assuring them of their safety. Two other residents gave a similar account. "They resorted to firing RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) on the city".

Dhaka city authorities launched a crackdown on chemical warehouses in residential areas following the blaze, but efforts to rein in the practice have waned in recent years. Officials said narrow lanes made it hard for fire engines to reach the spot, and helicopters and long hose pipes were used to put out the blaze.

The Guardian reported that a nearby community center was hosting a bridal party when it too caught fire, trapping people inside and resulting in many injuries. An investigation later found it was caused by sabotage and that plant managers had prevented victims from escaping.

Over 50 wounded people were being treated at Dhaka's two major state-run facilities - Dhaka Medical College Hospital's burn unit and Sir Salimullah Medical College.

Shopowner Haji Abdul Kader told Agence France-Presse he "heard a big bang", and then "saw the whole street in flames. Flames were everywhere", he told AFP. Most of the dead were charred beyond recognition however.

"I got burned and rushed to hospital".

A fire swept through a nine-story garment factory near Dhaka in November 2012, killing 111 workers.

Witnesses told local TV stations that many gas cylinders stored in the buildings continued to explode.

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