Dhaka office block inferno kills five with many feared trapped

A FIRE broke out at a 22-storey building in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka on Thursday (28), killing at least five people, injuring 60 and trapping many, officials said.

Many of those trapped waved frantically from the building’s windows and roof, witnesses said, as passersby stood watching and praying below.

Helicopters were brought in to join 22 firefighting units that worked with the army, navy, air force and police to battle the blaze as smoke billowed into the sky.

“The fire is almost under control,” said Mizanur Rahman, a senior fire service official at the scene.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. The building is in the upscale, built-up Banani area of the city.

Many students gathered to help fire and police officials in the rescue work.

One student, Faisal Rifayat, said he saw three people attempting to escape by climbing out of the eighth floor soon after the fire began, but one fell and was later declared dead.

Nanda, a finance manager at the IT firm AAMRA which has offices on four different floors in the building, said he managed to escape with 20 colleagues.

Three people died after jumping from the blazing 19-floor building while two others appeared to have died from the effects of the blaze, officials said.

“Three people appear to have died afer jumping from upper floors of the building,” United Hospital spokesman Sazzadur Rahman Shuvo said. They had serious head injuries but no apparent burns.

He said at least eight other people were being treated at the hospital.

A military spokesman, Abdullah Ibne Zaid, said the body of a Sri Lankan man was brought to the army’s Kurmitola Hospital and another 45 people were being treated there. Another fatality was reported at the Dhaka Medical College hospital.

Helicopters dropped water on the blaze as flames and thick black smoke poured out of the windows.

Scores of firefighters were backed by navy and air force specialists, authorities said.

Hundreds of panicked onlookers crowded the streets in the upmarket Banani commercial district.

Shoikot Rahman ran to safety after hearing colleagues raise the alarm, narrowly escaping the smoke and flames engulfing the building.

“When I heard a fire broke out in the building, I quickly rushed out of the building,” he said.

“Many of my colleagues are still trapped in the office.”

There was no official word on how many people were trapped inside.

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