Bangladesh: 70 dead in Old Dhaka market fire

April FrancisFeb 24, 2019

Large building fires are a relatively common occurrence in impoverished Bangladesh, due in part to lax regulations, and have killed hundreds in recent years.

Bangladesh's deadliest industrial blaze was in June 2010, when 117 people died in a fire that ripped through one of Dhaka's most densely populated areas. A local business owner tells the AFP he heard a "big bang", then saw "the whole street, which was jam packed with cars and rickshaws, in flames".

At least 70 people are dead and dozens more are injured following a warehouse fire in Bangladesh. "This is not like any other fire", he said, adding that the inferno had been made more devastating by the "highly combustible" chemicals.

According to officials, the fire broke out at night in a chemical warehouse on the ground floor of a four-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion behind a mosque in Old Dhaka's congested Chawkbazar area on Wednesday night.

Over 50 people, including women and children, were also injured and admitted to nearby hospitals, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital.

"Our teams are working there but numerous recovered bodies are beyond recognition", he told the AP.

The centuries-old Chawkbazar district has very narrow streets and residential buildings only inches apart.

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The city's worst fire since 2012 broke out late on Wednesday night in a five-storey building, before spreading to others nearby in the Chawkbazar precinct, parts of which date back more than 300 years to the Mughal period. "Our people are using body bags to send them to the hospital morgue, this is a very hard situation", he said.

Officials said the firefighters struggled to get close to the scene because of heavy traffic and narrow alleys that were busy when the fire started. The blaze spread quickly between the buildings, some of which house chemicals and plastic.

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.

The Dhaka district administration officially lists 11 people as missing.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapse killed more than 1,100 workers.

Many victims were trapped in buildings, one fire official told the AP.

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