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A massive fire that engulfed several buildings in Dhaka’s Chowkbazar has claimed the lives of at least 70 people. The fire broke out at a four-storey building behind Churihatta’s Shahi Mosque on February 21, Wednesday, around 10:30 PM, and even after nine hours of effort by as many as 37 fire-fighting units, the fire could not be completely doused, however, it was less visible after water being spread from above my helicopters on Thursday morning.
According to AKM Shakil Newaz, director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, the fire became so massive that it could not be doused completely, because of flammable liquids stored in many of the buildings that caught fire.
More than 40 people have been admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, with at least nine of them suffering burn injuries.
The building in which the fire started is so damaged that it is at the risk of collapsing, and locals said that one late Wahid Chairman is its owner. From there, the fire soon spread to three other buildings and Rajmoni Restaurant in the narrow alley, reported bdnews24.
Residents said that the ground floor of the building where the fire started had several shops, the first floor was a warehouse of cosmetics, plastic goods and perfumes, and on the upper floors, some families lived.
An electric transformer exploded almost instantly after the fire broke out, which in turn led to several cars parked on the alley to catch fire. Because of a wedding ceremony being held nearby, the alley was congested and packed with people.
Witnesses said that a crowd and several vehicles were surrounding Katara Community Centre, which was at the south of the building which caught fire. On hearing the blast, people started running for their lives, and some of them burned to death at the scene. Dozens of people were trapped inside the buildings, unable to escape into the crowded road.
At around 3:00 AM, one Hafiz came to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, looking for his relatives. “My niece, her husband and their two children were walking along the road. I found their elder son with parts of his body burned. I am looking for the others but couldn’t find them at the hospital,” he said.
Among many other terrified witnesses, a resident of Haider Baksh Lane, Bashar, saw a car being lifted into the air by the force of the explosion. He said that a few gas cylinders kept in front of Rajmoni Restaurant caught fire, and the flames rapidly spread across the buildings.
Fire Service and Civil Defence Director General Ali Ahmed said that the neighbourhood was so congested that the firefighters found it difficult to bring their equipment inside. Besides, the flammable chemicals stores inside the buildings caused the fire to spread rapidly. To identify the cause of the fire, an investigation panel has been formed. Bangladesh’s fire service chief Ali Ahmed said the search is still undergoing and the death toll may rise, reported News18.
This incident is a grim reminder of the 2010 Nimtali fire, which started with an electric transformer exploding. Over 100 people were killed and 100 were injured in the fire.
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