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70 killed in massive Dhaka blaze

DHAKA: A fast-moving fire swept through adjoining apartment buildings and chemical warehouses in a historic part of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, killing at least 70 people and injuring several others, the latest such deadly blaze in the country.

Officials said the fire broke out at night in a chemical warehouse on the ground floor of a four-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion behind a mosque in Old Dhaka’s congested Chawkbazar  area on Wednesday night and the flames then quickly spread through four other buildings nearby, including a community centre where a wedding party was on. “The salvage campaign is ending here,” mayor of Dhaka South Sayeed Khokon said. Fire officials said that the blaze has claimed at least 70 lives so far.

Earlier, fire service control room spokesman Kamrul Ahsan said that the death toll was 81. However, it was later revised downward to at least 70.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police officials said the fire spread rapidly due to the multiple chemical godowns that were situated in the area.

State-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s director Brigadier General AKM Nasiruddin, however, feared that the toll may rise as several people were being treated at the facility with critical burn injuries.

Khokon called off the rescue operation around 12.10 pm after nearly 14 hours of efforts. Two-hundred fire-fighters from 37 units doused the blaze, making their way to the scene through narrow lanes with fire engines. “Some of the bodies were burned very badly, difficult to be identified… Of the victims, five are children and nine women,” a doctor said. Bangladesh’s fire service chief Ali Ahmed said the blaze may have started with a gas cylinder before quickly spreading through the building where chemicals were stored.

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