Dhaka Chawkbazar Fire: Death Toll Plunges To 70

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Update: A devastating fire raced through densely packed buildings in a centuries-old shopping district in Bangladesh’s capital, killing at least 70 people, officials and witnesses said Thursday. The fire in Dhaka’s Chawkbazar area was mostly under control after more than 10 hours of frantic firefighting efforts. Some of the about 50 people injured were critically burned.

Update:  Around an hour later, death toll touches 45 as some 30 firefighting units were working at the scene.

Dhaka: The fire broke out in a four-storey building behind the Shahi Mosque at Churihatta around 10:30pm on Wednesday and later spread to four other buildings in a grim reminder of the fatal 2010 Nimtali fire.

Fire Service and Civil Defence Director General Ali Ahmed Khan told the media at 2:30am on Thursday that at least five bodies were seen in the buildings on the narrow street. Around an hour later, he put the number of dead bodies at 10 to 11 as some 30 firefighting units were working at the scene.

They were yet to complete scanning all the buildings, he added. Besides putting out small flames here and there inside the buildings, the firefighters started a rescue operation using ladders.

The fire crews had finally brought the fire under control, Dhaka South Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon said while visiting the site around 2:30am. An electric transformer on the street exploded after the fire had started, witnesses said. The explosion also set some cars ablaze and gas cylinders of the vehicles burst into flames, the witnesses said.

One or two people might have died on the street, they said. At least 30 people injured in the incident were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital until 12:15am, DMCH police camp in-charge Bachchu Mia told.

“More patients are coming in,” he added. At least 10 of the injured were burnt while the others sustained other forms of injury including cuts from broken glasses. Some broke their bones by jumping off the buildings.