About 70 people have been killed in Bangladesh capital Dhaka after a fire ravaged apartment buildings which were also being used as chemical warehouses. The fire is believed to have started when a fuel cylinder exploded in a car at Chawkbazar in the old Mughal part of the capital. Fire officials say the heavily congested area and narrow streets posed as a challenge.
Ibrahim Khan, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Police, said the fire quickly spread across five buildings in the tightly-packed area. A restaurant was also lost in the inferno. “Two cars and 10 cycle rickshaws were burned in the fire. The victims included passersby, some people who were eating food at the restaurant and members of the bridal party,” Mr. Khan said.
Ali Ahmed, the fire service chief, said people could not escape as there was a traffic jam when the fire broke out at 10.40 pm. Ahmed said the fire took a devastating turn because the apartments had been used as chemical warehouses. “One of the structures served as a perfume company’s warehouse. Plastics and chemicals triggered fire bombs”, he added.
More than 200 firefighters were deployed and it took them about 12 hours to bring the fire under control.
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In the recent past, Dhaka has had spate of fires. It occurs more frequently and causes huge number of loss of lives and properties every year. Experts attribute this to unplanned urbanization and a lack of adherence when constructing new buildings.
Moreover, the Bangladesh’s fire department had carried out a survey two years ago and found 360 chemical warehouses in residential buildings in two neighborhoods of old Dhaka. Poribesh Banchao Andolon, an environmentalist group, highlighted 850 illegal chemical factories in Dhaka. The group has described these illegal factories as ‘ticking time bomb’.