A fire in a high-rise office building in the Bangladesh capital on Thursday left 19 people dead and dozens injured, officials said.
Many people were trapped inside the building, but firefighters said after fighting the blaze for several hours that most had been rescued.
Firefighters said at least 19 firefighting units were working to put out the flames and rescue people inside the FR Tower, located on a busy avenue in Dhaka’s Banani shopping district.
“The situation is under control,” said Debashish Bardhan, deputy director of Fire Selearvice and Civil Defense.
The blaze had lost some of its intensity, but was not yet fully extinguished by late Thursday afternoon, Bardhan said, and firefighters were smashing the building’s glass walls to release toxic gases.
Shahadat Hossain, an officer on duty in the central fire and civil defense control room, said 19 people had died and about 70 others had been hospitalized. The cause was under investigation.
A Facebook Live video taken by Roy Pinaki showed five people descending from windows as burnt building materials fell around them. One person slipped off what appeared to be a rope people used to escape, bounced off electrical wires, and fell to the ground.
Military helicopters joined the rescue operation and a person hung from a helicopter hovering above the roof as thick plumes of smoke cascaded.
More than a dozen people who fled to the roof were rescued by firefighters using hydraulic cranes, Bardhan said.
Witness Sajib Hasan said some people shouted for help from the windows on the upper floors of the building. Thick smoke discouraged efforts by responders to approach them, but Hasan said he saw at least a dozen people being rescued.
Banani, the area where the fire started, is a bustling shopping district with multi-story buildings housing offices, universities and restaurants.
Tushar-or-Rashid, an employee of the Vivid Holidays travel agency on the first floor of the building, said the fire started above them.
“All of our staff came out unharmed, but we don’t know what happened to the people who work on the upper floors,” he said.
Fires are common in Bangladesh, where building regulations and safety standards are often broken. Last month, a fire in the oldest part of Dhaka, a 400-year-old neighborhood full of apartments, shops and warehouses, killed at least 67 people.
In 2012, a fire broke out in a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 112 people trapped behind its locked doors. 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.