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At least 46 dead as fire at biryani restaurant engulfs Bangladesh mall

At least 46 dead as fire at biryani restaurant engulfs Bangladesh mall

A fire in a six-storey shopping mall in the Bangladeshi capital has killed at least 43 people and injured dozens of others.

The blaze began in a popular biryani restaurant in Dhaka’s Bailey Road late on Thursday and quickly spread to other floors, fire service officials said.

Bangladeshi health minister Samanta Lal Sen said the fire broke out in the building in Dhaka’s Bailey Road area, in a busy commercial district at the heart of the capital.

Fire crews rescued survivors and pulled out dead bodies, and by early Friday at least 43 people had died and 22 others were being treated, he said.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

“All 22 people admitted with severe burns are in critical condition,” Mr Sen added.

Mr Sen said at least 33 people, including women and children, were declared dead at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

At least 10 others died after being taken to the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock and sorrow over the incident, ordering officials to provide swift treatment for the injured.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, which was under control after two hours of effort by 13 firefighting units, fire service officials said.

At least 75 people, including 42 who were unconscious, were rescued from the building, crews said.

Survivor Mohammad Altaf, speaking to reporters, recounted narrowly escaping the blaze through a broken window. Two of his coworkers perished, he said.

“When the fire started in the front and broke the glass, our cashier and servicemen got everyone out. But both of them died later. I went to the kitchen, broke a window and jumped to save myself,” Mr Altaf said.

BANGLADESH-INCENDIO (AP)
BANGLADESH-INCENDIO (AP)

Relatives of the fire victims gathered at the hospital in the early hours of Friday to receive the bodies of their loved ones, while some were seen grieving outside the emergency department.

Many people were dining with family members including children in the building that houses mostly restaurants along with several clothing and mobile phone shops. Most of the people who perished died from suffocation and some died as they jumped off the building, doctors said.

Onlookers watch anxiously (REUTERS)
Onlookers watch anxiously (REUTERS)

Firefighters used cranes to rescue people from the charred building, fire service officials said.

Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Director Brigadier General Main Uddin said the fire could have originated from a gas leak or stove.

“It was a dangerous building with gas cylinders on every floor, even on the staircases,” he told reporters.

A five-member committee has been formed to investigate the incident.

Doctors said most of the dead were killed by suffocation with others dying as they jumped off the building, which also houses some clothing and mobile telephone shops.

The main opposition party blamed the government for the fire.

“Accidents and disasters keep happening as there is no rule of law,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said in a statement.

“The government is not accountable to the people and that’s why anarchy prevails, many accidents occur and people lose their lives.”

Fires are common in densely populated Dhaka. In recent years there has been a boom in new buildings, often constructed without proper safety measures.

Intense scrutiny of Bangladesh and the major global clothing retailers that manufacture there has helped prevent disasters in the garment sector since a fire in 2012 and a building collapse in 2013 together killed more than 1,200 workers.

But in other industries, mainly catering to Bangladesh‘s booming domestic economy and lacking equal emphasis on safety, hundreds of people have died in fires.

They have mostly occurred due to faulty gas cylinders, air conditioners and bad electrical wiring.

In June 2022, more than 40 people were killed and 200 injured after a fire broke out in a depot near the southern port city of Chittagong, in a blaze fire officials said could have been caused by a container of hydrogen peroxide as safety regulations were not followed.

In July 2021, at least 54 people were killed including many children at a food processing factory outside Dhaka.

A fire that engulfed a centuries-old area of Dhaka killed at least 70 people in February 2019.

Additional reporting by agencies