Friends and relatives of the victims caught up in a huge blaze that ripped through Bangladesh's capital were anxiously awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones late Thursday.
At least 70 people were killed and more than 40 others injured after the devastating fire hit a crowded neighbourhood in Dhaka on Wednesday evening, fire officials said.
It took 15 hours and 41 fire-fighting units to put out the flames.
The dead and injured were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where family members desperately sought information on the whereabouts of victims. Many screamed and wailed as they demanded information.
The Dhaka district administration officially lists 11 people as missing.
Over 40 people have been admitted to the hospital, said Sohel Mahmud, head of forensics at the hospital. Nine were being treated for burns.
The fire broke out on the ground floor of a four-storey building in an old part of the city before spreading to adjacent buildings.
Residents described how flammable materials in the shops and warehouses caused the fire to quickly spread.
‘We were standing in the street after having dinner. Suddenly we heard a big blast and saw fire in the sky,’ said resident Mohibul Hasan.
Hasan said that soon after the fire broke out, loud blasts erupted from a store on the first floor that sold cans of spray deodorant.
‘We had to struggle to douse the fire because of flammable chemicals that were stored in the building,’ said AKM Shakil Newaz, director of Fire Service and Civil Defence.
The old city's narrow streets were so congested that fire fighters struggled to reach the scene.
‘There were three hotels in the area and flame spread to all those hotels. There were few gas cylinders in those hotels which caught fire. The flame spread across the buildings on the street and as there was a huge traffic jam, people died on the street as they could not escape from the scene,’ said Mohammad Nabiullah, another resident.
A total of 37 bodies have so far been identified by relatives of the deceased and the rest would be identified through DNA tests, officials said.
‘The bodies were burnt in such a way that only skeletons were left. We have to do the DNA test to find out the identity of the bodies,’ Samanta Lal Sen, head of a burn unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, told dpa by phone.
The bodies of some of the victims have been handed over to family members.
The Dhaka district administration is giving 20,000 taka (240 dollars) per family to help pay for burial costs.
In 2010, a similar devastating fire in an old part of Dhaka killed 124 people.
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