Dhaka fire: at least 78 dead in Bangladesh blaze
Blaze at apartments used for illegal chemical storage follows repeat calls for action by authorities
At least 78 people have been killed in a fire that tore through apartments also being used to store flammable chemicals in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, according to officials.
The blaze began at around 10:30pm local time on Wednesday in Chawkbazar, described by CNN as a historic district “with sprawling narrow streets and densely-packed buildings”.
The fire is believed to have started when a fuel cylinder stored in a car exploded. Flames then quickly spread to a nearby restaurant and five buildings, police said.
A traffic jam in the street outside the buildings blocked many exits, trapping people inside.
The apartments are believed to have contained storage units filled with “chemicals, body sprays and plastic granules”, which further fuelled the flames, The Guardian reports.
Firefighters battled through the night to control the blaze.
This morning Bangladesh’s fire service chief Ali Ahmed said the fire had been extinguished, but warned that the death toll was likely to rise.
“The number of bodies may increase,” he said. “The search is still going on.”
The BBC reports that large building fires “are relatively common” in the densely populated cities of Bangladesh, “owing to lax safety regulations and poor conditions”.
Bangladesh-based website BDNews24 says that this week’s tragedy should serve as “another wake-up call” for the authorities, who have faced calls to remove chemical warehouses from Old Dhaka since a massive fire in the Nimtali district in 2010 claimed more than 100 lives.
Two years ago, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon vowed the chemicals warehouses would be relocated from Old Dhaka, “but there has been little visible progress on the matter”, the site adds.