Bangladesh: 70 dead in Old Dhaka market fire

Debris are seen outside the burnt warehouse at Chawkbazar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, February 21, 2019.

Mahfuz Riven, a duty officer of the Fire Service and Civil Defense, told Xinhua News Agency that "We have so far recovered the bodies of 69 people".

Numerous city's residents said the fire is reminiscent of a similar tragedy that left 120 people dead in 2010.

The inferno consumed four neighbouring warehouses which stored body sprays and plastic granules.

The president called for everyone to extend their support to the families of those killed by, or injured in, the fire.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, photo, firefighters and local people help douse a fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The blaze started late Wednesday night in one building but quickly spread to others, fire department Director General Brigadier General Ali Ahmed said.

"Our teams are working there, but numerous recovered bodies are beyond recognition. Our people are using body bags to send them to the hospital morgue, this is a very hard situation".

A almost 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.

Another fire official told reporters the blaze was under control but was not extinguished despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters. Crammed with tightly-packed residential and industrial buildings, some just inches apart, the district dates back to the Mughal era more than 300 years ago. "After the Nimtoli tragedy, we urged our local leaders not to allow any more godowns that are a danger for us", he added, referring to a 2010 fire that claimed 124 lives.

Witnesses told local TV stations that many gas cylinders stored in the buildings continued to explode one after another.

The death toll now sits at 70 but fire officials expect it to rise as the fire tore through the building and leapt to four others, some of which also stored chemicals, at the tight intersection.

Some reports suggested numerous fatalities were pedestrians, shoppers or diners who died quickly as several gas cylinders exploded, and the fire engulfed nearby buildings very quickly.

Rahman said at least 50 people had been taken to hospital, some in critical condition.

  • Joey Payne