Death toll in Bangladesh fire climbs to at least 81

by Samuel Abasi Posted on February 21st, 2019

At least 81 people have died in a major fire in Bangladesh’s capital that started at a chemical warehouse and spread through a neighborhood, authorities said Thursday.

Officials in Dhaka said 70 bodies had been recovered from the burned buildings and 11 died of their injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Dhaka fire officials said the blaze started in a chemical warehouse building late Wednesday. Some witnesses said a compressed gas cylinder, often used for cooking, started the fire. The Chawkbazar neighborhood contained many poorly-made buildings that stood close together, possibly contributing to the fast spread of the fire.

The blaze burned a restaurant and five buildings, Ibrahim Khan, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Police, said. Firefighters feared two of the buildings could collapse because the damage was so severe.

Khan added that firefighters gained control of the blaze early Thursday and started the task of identifying bodies. Family members started to gather at the hospital for news on those injured.

“When we are able to search the whole building then we will know the exact numbers of victims,” the Dhaka fire brigade director said.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s office told reporters Thursday victims’ families will receive financial assistance.

Dhaka has seen a number of deadly fires in recent years. A factory fire on Dhaka’s outskirts in 2012 killed more than 100 people. In court, 13 people were found guilty of gross negligence involving safety measures and charged with “culpable homicide.” Three years later, a fire killed 13 at a plastics factory near the capital and eight more died in a 2017 clothing factory blaze.

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