Skyscraper inferno kills 19 in Banani
DHAKA, March 28, 2019 (BSS) – A fire that tore through a skyscraper engulfing two adjacent structures in Dhaka’s Banani area killed at least 19 people and wounded scores as salvage campaign is underway to rescue scores others with armed forces joining hands with fire fighters.
“Until now the death toll stands at 19,” Fire Services Deputy Director Dilip Kumar Ghosh told a news briefing accompanied by fellow fire service DD Shamim Ahsan Chowdhury at the scene.
He said search campaign was underway inside the buildings. A 5-member committee, led by Fire Service Deputy Director Debashis Bardhan, was formed to probe the fire incident. The committee has been asked to submit report within seven working days.
Police and hospital sources initially confirmed seven deaths including that of a Sri Lankan national, but a military official later said they found at least three people who died after being trapped inside a lift which was stuck on the 15th floor of the 22-storey FR Tower, where the blaze originated at around 12.55 PM.
Fire service officials said they could not confirm the identities of other three deceased.
Officials and witnesses said three of the victims died after jumping from the building while most others appeared to have died from the blaze effects.
Fire service officials could not immediately comment what sparked the blaze which quickly spread to two adjacent high-rise buildings while all the three structures housed offices and commercial entities including restaurants and a private TV channel.
Over 70 people are being treated at different government and private health facilities, some of them with critical wounds.
“The fire is now extinguished,” the fire service official told newsmen at the scene as it took 21 fire fighting units over five hours to douse the inferno.
Five military and air force helicopters were deployed to drop water on the blaze as flames and thick black smoke poured out of the windows and air lift trapped people while navy commandos extended their hands to the fire service rescuers.
Several people trapped inside were seen waving frantically from the building’s windows and roof and shouting for help from windows on the upper floors of the building.
Passersby stood watching and praying below as heavy smoke deterred rescuers efforts to get close to them.
Witnesses said three people attempting to escape by climbing out of the eighth floor soon after the fire began but one fell and declared dead later.
Firefighters shattered the building’s glass walls to free toxic gas while over a dozen were rescued or they managed to get themselves out from the burning building.
“A 20-member military team has entered the building with necessary equipment to salvage the trapped people,” a military officer at the scene said.
Fire officials said the blaze erupted on the eighth floor of the building and gradually went upward engulfing ninth, 10th and 11th floors but could not immediately say what sparked the inferno.
But newsmen and residents in the neighbourhood said it may have originated from the eighth floor inside the complex.
The fire broke out just over a month after a massive blaze in Dhaka’s old quarter killed at least 70 people and injured 50 others while fire service officials attributed the blaze to chemicals illegally stored in an apartment building there.