The fire that erupted in an industrial area three days ago continued to burn hundreds of tones of books at a government complex amid growing suspicion of sabotage behind the blaze.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina termed the fire that broke out on Sunday at the National Curriculum and Textbook Board warehouse in Tejgaon industrial area, as the biggest challenge of her government after the February mutiny by paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border force.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told Samokal newspaper that “this is visibly a case of sabotage” while a Prime Minister’s spokesman told PTI that Hasina has ordered fresh textbooks to be printed so that schools could start the new academic year from January 2010.

“The government for the first time was preparing to distribute all school textbooks free of cost which affected the interest of many quarters, a situation which is likely to have a link with the blaze,” he said.

Over a dozen fire tenders are battling the blaze with army and navy’s help. At least 10 people were injured in the incident.

“The fire already burnt hundreds of tones of books while the blaze is still on,” a textbook board official told PTI.

The government has asked a seven-member committee headed by education ministry additional secretary Razia Begum to submit “a primary report” on the incident in next three days.

“We still couldn’t reach the source of fire at the north-eastern part of the warehouse and it’s not possible to douse the fire until papers are removed that are stuck due to watering,” a fire service spokesman told reporters on Monday night.

The education minister earlier said the government had a plan to print about 19 crore books for the new academic year beginning in January 2010 but “it became a big challenge for us to accomplish the task due to the devastating fire“.

The fire brigade officials said the blaze originated on the ground floor and quickly spread through the three-storey building.

“The building wasn’t erected as per building codes.

That’s why we are finding it so difficult to control the blaze,” fire service chief Brigadier Abu Nayyim Mohammad Shahidullah earlier told reporters.

He also said the books and papers were not properly stored so the firemen faced difficulty in reaching certain parts of the warehouse and had to break open the back wall of the building.

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