Office tower catches fire in Bangladesh capital
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A fire broke out Thursday in a high-rise office building in Bangladesh’s capital and many people were feared trapped inside, witnesses and officials said.
Fire officials said at least 19 firefighting units were working to douse the flames and rescue people inside the FR Tower, located on a busy avenue in Dhaka’s Banani commercial district.
Many people on upper floors were trapped without an escape route, fire control room duty officer Russel Shiker said.
After battling the blaze for several hours, firefighters entered the building and said it had become less intense, he said.
“Water is still being sprayed so that the fire does not grow and spread to other buildings,” Shiker said.
There was no immediate confirmation of casualties. A Facebook Live video taken by Roy Pinaki showed five people scaling down from windows while burnt building materials fell around them. One person slipped from what appeared to be a rope that people were using to escape, bounced off utility wires and fell to the ground.
Military helicopters joined the rescue operation, and one person dangled from a helicopter hovering over the roof as thick plumes of smoke cascaded upward.
Firefighters on hydraulic lifts trained two hoses on the building.
Witness Sajib Hasan said some people shouted for help from windows on the upper floors of the building. Heavy smoke deterred efforts by responders to get close to them, but Hasan said he watched at least a dozen people get rescued.
Banani, the area where the fire broke out, is a busy commercial district with multistory buildings housing offices, universities and restaurants.
Tushar-or-Rashid, an employee of the Vivid Holidays tour company on the building’s first floor, said the fire began above them.
“All of our staff have come out safely but we don’t know what happened to the people who work in the upper floors,” he said. Rashid said the building has 21 floors.
Fires are common in Bangladesh, where building regulations and safety norms are often violated. Last month, a fire in the oldest part of Dhaka, a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses, left at least 67 people dead.
In 2012, a fire raced through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 112 people trapped behind its locked gates. Less than six months later, another building containing garment factories collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.
Another fire in a house illegally storing chemicals in Old Dhaka killed at least 123 people in 2010. /ee
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