At least 77 people were burnt alive, mostly women and children, while 50 others critically wounded on Thursday night as a deadly fire raced through several apartment complexes in Dhaka, apparently after a transformer explosion, officials said.
“Rescuers so far retrieved 77 bodies, mostly children and women, while at least 50 others were struggling for life at (state-run) Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) with critical burn injuries,” the private RTV channel reported.
Twenty fire service units have managed to extinguish the blaze. Fire service chief Brigadier General Abu Nayeem Mohammed Shahidullah told newsmen the fire was now under control but rescue operations continued as more bodies and injured people could be trapped inside the wrecks.
“It appears the hell has come down here. We see the rescuers are retrieving burnt bodies one after another from the ruptured structures using search lights for want of electricity,” another eyewitness said.
An explosion in an electric transformer apparently sparked the blaze at around 10 p.m. and it quickly engulfed a small plastic factory and four other multi-storied buildings and adjacent shops sending the flames some 300 feet height in the sky, a fire brigade official said.
The reports said most of the wounded people were rushed to a nearby hospital. Salimullah Medical Collage Hospital has opened a makeshift burns unit to treat the injured.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her deep shock over the tragedy. She has asked the concerned government agencies to expedite rescue campaign and provide proper treatment to the injured.
Dhaka mayor Sadek Hossain, Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque and several government leaders were overseeing the rescue operations and the treatment arrangements at the hospitals.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and ex-Premier Khaleda Zia also visited the scene.