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Fire in Bangladesh shopping center kills dozens


A fire tore through a shopping mall in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Thursday evening, killing at least 46 people and injuring dozens more, officials said.

The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning after people became trapped in a closed room and suffocated by smoke, the country’s health minister, Dr. Samanta Lal Sen, told reporters.

At least 75 other people were injured, firefighters said.

Earlier, Bachchu Mia, police inspector at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, said at least 27 bodies had been identified and sent to their families.

Witnesses said the mall had only one staircase and one elevator, with no emergency exit, making escape difficult. Some people trapped inside jumped from upper floors, they said.

Deadly fires and industrial disasters, particularly in garment factories, are a recurring problem in Bangladesh. The country of 170 million people’s steady economic growth has been a regional success story in recent years, but human rights and labor organizations have long expressed concerns about poor working conditions and safety measures in the workplace.

The worst disaster occurred in 2013, when the collapse of an eight-story garment factory killed more than 1,100 people. In 2021, a factory fire in the town of Narayanganj killed more than 50 people.

The fire broke out around 9:51 p.m. on the second floor of the mall, which houses a popular biryani restaurant, fire officials said. The attack quickly spread to the rest of the seven-story building, ravaging a clothing store on the third floor.

The restaurant, called Kacchi Bhai, said on its website that the fire started on the ground floor. On her Facebook account, she posted a video showing part of the ground floor of the building on fire, which appears to be an early stage of the fire.

It took crews at least two hours to extinguish the fire, authorities said.

The video shows that most of the floors were charred by the flames. A firefighter could be seen atop a fire truck ladder trying to put out a small fire that was still burning near one of the upper floors. Another video showed survivors being lowered down a ladder as a crowd of rescuers, media and onlookers waited to receive them on the street below.

The mall, on Bailey Road, has a mix of restaurants and stores. Almost every floor has a restaurant and most are equipped with gas cylinders, a fire official told a television reporter. He said the cylinders could have played a role in the fire spreading so quickly. It was unclear what caused the fire.

The mall is a popular place on Thursday, the end of the working week in Bangladesh. By Friday morning, all that remained was a charred hull.

Officers from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police were investigating the scene on Friday morning, using a drone. The police tried to round up hundreds of spectators.

Ismail Hossain Sohel, a computer engineer who often visited the Ambrosia restaurant and music café in the building, said he was about to enter just before the fire tore through the mall.

“I have never seen such a disaster before,” he said, recounting how a man jumped from the third floor, injuring his head.

Salman Alim, who works at the mall’s Pizza Inn, said his work day ended about two hours before the fire started.

By the time Mr Alim returned, the fire was raging, he said. “None of our employees were killed,” he added. “They ran to the top floor and the firefighters rescued them.”

John Yoon reports contributed.


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