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Thursday 14 November 2019

17 killed and 70 injured as flames tear through city centre tower block

Flames leap from the windows of the 21-storey office building in Dhaka as firefighters try to tackle the blaze and reach people trapped inside
Flames leap from the windows of the 21-storey office building in Dhaka as firefighters try to tackle the blaze and reach people trapped inside

Seventeen people died and up to 70 were injured in a high-rise office blaze yesterday in Bangladesh.

Many were trapped inside, but officials said most were rescued as firefighters battled for several hours in the capital, Dhaka, to quell the flames.

"The situation is under control," deputy fire and civil defence director Debashish Bardhan announced.

The blaze had lost some intensity but was not yet fully extinguished, he added.

Firefighters were shattering the 21-storey building's glass walls to let toxic gas escape.

The fire at the FR Tower, on a busy avenue in the sprawling capital's commercial district, was the latest in a city where breaches of building regulations and safety norms have made deadly blazes common.

Slipped

Duty officer Shahadat Hossain said 17 people had died and around 70 others were being treated in hospital.

A live Facebook video by witness Roy Pinaki showed five people trying to escape.

They climbed out of windows while burning building materials fell around them.

One person slipped from what appeared to be a rope used in the escape, then bounced off utility wires before falling to the ground.

Military helicopters joined the rescue, and one person dangled from a helicopter hovering over the roof as thick plumes of smoke rose.

More than a dozen people who fled to the roof were rescued by firefighters using hydraulic cranes.

Another witness, Sajib Has- an,said some people shouted for help from windows on the upper floors.

Heavy smoke deterred attempts to get close to them, but Hasan said he saw at least a dozen people saved.

Banani, the area where the fire broke out, is a busy commercial hub with multi-storey buildings of offices, universities and restaurants.

Tushar-or-Rashid, an employee of the Vivid Holidays tour company on the building's first floor, said the fire began above them.

"All of our staff have come out safely, but we don't know what happened to the people who work in the upper floors," he said.

Cramped

The fire is the latest in a series to hit one of the world's most densely inhabited cities, with a population of 18.9million.

Last month, a fire in the oldest part of Dhaka - a 400-year-old district cramped with flats, shops and warehouses - left at least 67 dead.

In 2012, a fire tore through a garment factory on the outskirts, killing at least 112 people trapped behind its locked gates.

Less than six months later, another building of garment factories collapsed, killing more than 1,100.

A fire in a house illegally storing chemicals in Old Dhaka killed at least 123 in 2010.

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