Bangladesh: A sudden fire in a 22-floor building located in the upmarket Banani commercial district of Dhaka in Bangladesh left at least 19 dead and six of them had tried to jump to safety. The death toll could increase because rescue teams have recovered many charred bodies. There is no information on the number of office workers and other people present in the complex when the incident happened. The authorities pressed helicopters into operation to rescue those trapped in the building.

The Guardian quotes emergency services as reporting that a large number of victims who suffered from burns and inhalation of smoke were shifted to hospitals.

The number of people trapped inside is anybody’s guess. In desperation, people resorted to any available means to escape from the inferno including a television cable on the side of the building and ropes of rescue teams. Ambulances were on the spot to shift the injured to hospitals.

Dhaka has a history of such fires

This fire in the Banani commercial district of Dhaka is the second major deadly blaze this year in the city.

The previous one was in February in the old quarter of the city and the death toll was at least 70 with more than 50 injured. In the present case, firefighters broke the windows to create escape routes and even after an hour, people remained trapped on the13th and 14th floors. Army helicopters chipped in by throwing down ropes to help rescue the trapped people.

Helicopters tried to control the flames that threatened to go out of control and spread to nearby buildings, by using water. During interaction with the media, Lieutenant Colonel Julfikar Rahman of the Dhaka fire service said – “The building did not have fire-fighting equipment.”

The Guardian says the source of fire is not yet established but a person has revealed that it started in a restaurant on the sixth floor.

Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world where building regulations are notoriously lax. A fire in 2010 took 123 lives while another one in 2012 killed 111 workers in a garment factory.

Strong fire safety measures needed

According to the BBC, the administration must introduce suitable fire safety measures in high-rise buildings because fire destroys lives and properties. This is all the more important in view of the number of recent incidents. An official of Dhaka's fire service department has indicated that as many as nineteen fire-fighting units are at the scene along with personnel of Bangladesh navy and air force.

Dhaka has a population of more than 18 million and nearly 3.5 million of them live in slums, according to the World Bank.