Fire at seven-storey commercial building in Bangladesh’s capital kills at least 45 people

PTI, Mar 1, 2024, 11:43 AM IST

Representative image (Source: iStock)

Dhaka: A massive fire that ripped through a seven-storey commercial building here overnight killed at least 45 people and injured 22 others, the health minister said on Friday, in one of the worst infernos that has hit Bangladesh in recent years.

The fire on Thursday night that engulfed the Green Cozy Cottage building in the capital’s Baily Road area housed several restaurants and shops.

The fire broke out around 9:50 pm on Thursday at a popular restaurant named “Kacchi Bhai” on the building’s first floor and quickly spread to the upper floors that had more restaurants and a garment shop, according to fire service officials.

Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen said around 2 am that 33 bodies were brought to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and 10 others to the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery. Another victim died at the Police Hospital.

The condition of those injured is ”critical”, he told reporters at a briefing.

Another victim died around 7:00 am while undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit (ICU) of DMCH, Mostafa Abdullah Al Noor, (Nezarat) Deputy Collector (NDC) in Dhaka, told The Daily Star newspaper.

With this, the death toll from the fire rose to 45, Noor said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is closely monitoring the fire incident at the commercial building, the Health Minister said.

Fire officials said 75 people, including 42 in unconscious state, were taken out of the seven-storey building. Thirteen fire service units were mobilised, the officials said.

The minister, a burn wound specialist, said 22 people are being treated at both health facilities and their condition is ”critical”.

”The respiratory system of those who have survived so far has been seriously damaged,” Sen told reporters at the DMCH.

Doctors said some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and feared that the death toll could rise.

Witnesses and officials said to escape the fire, people rushed to the upper floors. Many were rescued by firefighters using ladders, they added.

IGP Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun in a press briefing said that 44 people died and 75 had been rescued. Some of the rescued individuals received first aid treatment before returning home safely.

He also said the dead victims included the daughter of a police officer.

Fire Service DG Moin said the 42 unconscious included 21 women and four children.

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

He believes the fire originated from a gas leak or stove. The building has only one exit – the staircases, according to him.

Most of the people died as they jumped off the building or from burns or suffocation, said firefighters who brought the fire under control around 12.30 am. The first death was reported around 1 am when the firefighters took the bodies one by one to a freezing truck waiting outside the building, local media reported.

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

Fires in apartment buildings and factory complexes are common in Bangladesh due to lax enforcement of safety rules.

As many as 102 people were killed and 281 others sustained burn injuries in 27,624 fire incidents across the country in 2023, according to Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) headquarters.

According to the Fire Service statistics, most of the fire incidents originated from electric short circuits, burning cigarettes, ovens and leakage of gas pipelines.

In July 2021, at least 52 people including many children were killed when a fire swept through a food processing factory.

In February 2019, 70 people died when an inferno ripped through several Dhaka apartment blocks.

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