Bangladesh fire: Dhaka tower blaze death toll soars

The death toll from a horrific blaze that ripped through a Bangladesh skyscraper rose on Friday to 25, including some who leapt to their deaths, as firefighters combed through the charred shell of the building.

A Bangladeshi housing official said on Friday that criminal charges would be filed against the owner of the commercial building in Banani area of Dhaka.

Minister for Housing and Public Work SM Rezaul Karim also pledged to take action against officials in his ministry if they were guilty of wrongdoing associated with allowing the added floors or other violations.

A day after flames tore through the 22-storey FR Tower in Dhaka, trapping hundreds of office workers, police said they intended to talk to the owner of the building as part of their enquiry.

Some of those stuck inside made it to safety by sliding down cables on the side of the building, but as shocked onlookers watched, others took their chances and jumped in a bid to escape the smoke and heat.

At least six people including a Sri Lankan national died in this way, officials said.

Senior fire service official Mohsin Ali told AFP that rescuers were scouring the building, concentrating on the worst-affected eighth-to-tenth floors.

The fire department intially put the death toll at 19 but police said on Friday that six more had died in the fire.

“The death toll is 25. We have handed over 24 bodies to their relatives,” deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mostak Ahmed told AFP. The other victim’s remains are being held until relatives are located.

There was no immediate indication if others are missing, but more than 70 people were treated in hospital in the wake of the blaze.

The fire erupted on Thursday afternoon in the upmarket Banani commercial district.

Firefighters backed by military specialists – some in helicopters – tackled the blaze, lowering ropes to help people escape, while rescuers on long ladders smashed through windows.

Bangladesh authorities have ordered a probe into the incident to examine claims that the skyscraper lacked fire equipment, its fire exits were inadequate and it had been illegally extended.

Fire disasters regularly hit Bangladesh’s major cities where safety standards are notoriously lax.

The latest inferno erupted barely a month after at least 70 people were killed in Dhaka apartment buildings where chemicals that were being stored illegally exploded – unleashing a blaze that took more than 12 hours to control.

Al Jazeera and news agencies


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