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Police seeking those responsible for deadly Bangladesh fire

/ 03:12 PM February 22, 2019
Police seeking those responsible for deadly Bangladesh fire

The wrangled and charred remains of rickshaws lie at the site of a late Wednesday night fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Feb. 21, 2019.  AP

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Police on Friday were seeking up to a dozen suspects in connection with a fire in the oldest part of Bangladesh’s capital that killed at least 67 people.

“We are investigating to find those responsible. We have not mentioned any names in the case. Upon investigation we will be able to disclose everything,” Ibrahim Khan, a deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters at the scene.

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The case filed Thursday night by police included 10-12 suspects.

Workers were removing charred vehicles, twisted bits of metal and other debris while others hosed down the road to clean ashes from the scene Friday as investigators inspected the burned buildings in the Chawkbazar district to determine what caused Wednesday’s late-night blaze.

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The team of civil engineers, members of Dhaka’s fire department and government agency officials also were expected to suggest ways to prevent another, similar tragedy.

Authorities say that the fire appeared to have spread quickly because of chemicals and plastics in the affected buildings.

The area that was incinerated, part of what is known as Old Dhaka, is crammed with homes, shops and warehouses along narrow alleys. It dates to the Mughal era 400 years ago.

After a fire in a neighboring district at a building storing flammable chemicals killed 123 people in 2010, authorities promised to bring the buildings into compliance with zoning regulations and evict industrial warehouses from the residential buildings.

Dhaka-based political organizer Abu Naser Khan said Friday that calls to address dangerous overcrowding after the 2010 fire fell on deaf ears.

“The landlords in Old Dhaka are influential — financially and politically,” Khan said. “The people who have chemical and plastic businesses have strong associations that work as a pressure group.”

When authorities launched an eviction drive last May around where this week’s fire occurred, business owners protested, foiling the drive, Khan said. /ee

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