High-rise building catches fire in Dhaka, several people seen jumping to their death from blazing tower

At least 19 firefighting units are working to douse the blaze inside the FR Tower located on a busy avenue in Dhaka's Banani commercial district.


                            High-rise building catches fire in Dhaka, several people seen jumping to their death from blazing tower

A fire broke out on Thursday, March 28, in an office building in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, killing at least seven people and injuring 20 others, with witnesses and an official suggesting there was a fear there could be several still trapped inside in need of rescuing.

Ershad Hossain, a fire department control room official, said at least 19 firefighting units were working to douse the blaze inside the FR tower located on a busy avenue in Dhaka's Banani commercial district and rescue those inside.

Firefighters work to douse a fire in a multi-storied office building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 28, 2019. (AP)
Firefighters work to douse a fire in a multi-storied office building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 28, 2019. (AP)

Witness Sajib Hasan said some people were seen shouting for help from windows on the upper floors of the tower, with local reports suggesting several people tried to escape the fire by jumping from the building. Columns of smoke are proving to be an impediment to rescue efforts and are preventing rescuers from getting close to the building. Military helicopters have reportedly joined the rescue operation as well, and there have not yet been confirmations of casualties.

Locals help firefighters douse a fire in a multi-storied office building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 28, 2019 (AP)
Locals help firefighters douse a fire in a multi-storied office building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 28, 2019 (AP)

The incident marks the second time in little over a month that a fire has torn through the Bangladeshi capital. According to the New York Times, a fire started on February 20 in a mixed-use building in the crowded Chawkbazar neighborhood at night, when most people were sleeping, after a suspected compressed gas cylinder explosion.

Fire Department control room official Ershad Hossain said by phone the FR Tower in Dhaka's Banani commercial district caught fire Thursday afternoon (AP)
Fire Department control room official Ershad Hossain said by phone the FR Tower in Dhaka's Banani commercial district caught fire Thursday afternoon (AP)

Because of chemicals, including paints, which were stored in shops in the building's ground floor, the fire quickly engulfed the entire structure and proceeded to spread to nearby buildings as well. Because of the structure of the neighborhood — which is centuries old and has buildings jampacked next to one another — the impact of the fire was devastating, claiming at least 70 lives.

 Bangladeshi, stuck in a multi-storied office building on fire, speaks on his mobile phone in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 28, 2019 (AP)
 Bangladeshi, stuck in a multi-storied office building on fire, speaks on his mobile phone in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 28, 2019 (AP)

These events are not one-offs either, with the country repeatedly getting the rap for its poor fire safety records due to an abundance of cheaply-made buildings that have unscrupulous management. This resulted in one of the world's worst such disaster in 2012 when 112 people died after a fire consumed the Tazreen Fashions garment factory outside Dhaka.

With inputs from AP.