A massive fire killed at least 69 people on Wednesday night as it ripped through several buildings, which were also being used as chemical and plastic warehouses in old Dhaka, Bangladesh. The fire broke out at a chemical warehouse on the ground floor of a four-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion behind a Mosque in Old Dhaka's Chawkbazar area and the flames then quickly spread through four other buildings nearby, including a community centre, fire officials said.
At least 69 people have been killed in the massive blaze, fire officials said, adding that the death toll could rise further as dozens of people were trapped in the buildings and the fire fighters were yet to enter into the main spot where the fire broke out. Most of the bodies were retrieved from the houses around that building while fire fighters now prepare to enter into the five-storey building, the main spot in search of more bodies, a police official at the scene said.
Witnesses said the victims also included passersby, some people who were eating food at a nearby restaurants and some members of a wedding party. Fire officials said the second, third and fourth floors of the building were used as warehouses and plastic factories and there were some residential flats also. Over 50 wounded people were being treated at Dhaka's two major state-run facilities Dhaka Medical College Hospital's burn unit and Sir Salimullah Medical College. Many people were injured after they jumped off the building that housed several families.
The officials earlier said 37 fire fighting units were moved to the scene but narrow lanes made it difficult for fire engines to reach the spot forcing the fire fighters to use long hose pipes to set off the blaze. A nearly identical incident of fire in 2010 in an old Dhaka building, which was also used as a chemical warehouse, killed more than 120 people in one of the worst fire tragedies in Bangladesh. It had sparked a public outcry, demanding the relocation of chemical warehouses and stores from the area, but little has been done in the last nine years.