By Frank James
At least 116 people were killed in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka by a fire that swept through several apartment buildings after an electrical transformer exploded, triggering a conflagration.
According to news reports, people attending a rooftop wedding party on one of the buildings were among the victims, compounding the tragedy.
The Daily Star, an English language Bangladeshi newspaper reports:
The nation will observe a day of mourning on Saturday for the victims as toll from the country's one of the worst fires neared 100 after flames raced through several residential buildings in the capital Thursday night.
Abdur Rashid, deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, confirmed the deaths of 93 people, while Mohibul Haque, deputy commissioner of Dhaka, put the toll at 114.
Meanwhile, the rescuers called off the search for survivors at about 5:00am of the fire in the old part of the Dhaka city.
The government has declared a day of national mourning on Saturday across the country while special prayers will be offered at mosques, temples, churches and pagodas for the departed souls of the fire victims.
An Associated Press story offers more details about a horrible situation:
The blaze started Thursday night in the narrow alleys of the old section of Dhaka, crammed with new additions to decades-old buildings, when an electrical transformer exploded soon after a rainstorm swept the city, police officer Abul Kalam said.
As the neighborhood plunged into darkness, the explosion ignited a shop storing flammable chemicals, from where the flames quickly spread to at least six apartment buildings and about 15 stores in the Najirabazar area. Shops selling old newspapers and iron for scrap as well as fruits and vegetables dot the ground floors of residential building, making escape more difficult.
"There were screams, shouts for help and total chaos," Kalam said.
Fire official Abdus Salam said firefighters were delayed because their vehicles couldn't fit through the narrow streets and there were no hydrants or other sources of water.
Firefighters and residents carried victims to hospitals on three-wheeled rickshaws as relatives wailed.
From those details you get the sense of factors that probably contributed to the tragedy: poor building codes, overcrowding, a lack of infrastructure, Bangladesh's relative poverty, a lack of capacity on the local government's part, maybe corruption.
It leaves the sense that people are taking their lives in their hands living in some of these buildings. But they really have little choice.
On the very same web Daily Star page as the story on the fire, there's a story headlined: "6-storey building tilts at Begunbari" that underscores that feeling.
A six-storey residential building leaned to one side at Begunbari in the city Friday morning in less than a week after 25 people died in a building collapse in the same area.
A fire brigade team rushed to the spot and evacuated the residents from the building, fire brigade sources said.
The building, located at North Begunbari, tilted after a heavy downpour in the morning in an apparent result of shoddy construction and faulty design.
Earlier on June 1, a five-storey building collapsed onto tin-shed houses in the same area, killing 25 people and injuring dozens others. Faulty design was primarily blamed for the collapse.
The Begunbari case is not the first of its kind, as other instances of similar building collapse occurred in the past at Tejgaon, Savar and in the older part of the city.
categories: Accidents and Disasters