Bangladesh: Many dead after massive fire breaks out in Dhaka

A massive fire broke out in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Wednesday night, killing and injuring dozens of people.

On Thursday morning, fire officials said at least 69 people were killed in the blaze, adding that the death toll is likely to rise.

Over 40 people were being treated for injuries, with many of them sustaining burns, a police official told news agency dpa.

"There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape," Bangladesh's fire service chief Ali Ahmed told news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The fire broke out around 10:40 p.m. local time in the Chawkbazar area of Dhaka, in an old part of the city where the streets are very narrow and many residential buildings stand nearly inches apart.

TV images of the site showed the main gate of one building was locked, leaving the residents unable to escape the fire as it spread. Witnesses said that a bridal party in a community center were also caught in the fire and that many were injured.

Residential buildings housing chemicals

The blaze began in the ground floor of a four-story building, before quickly spreading to three neighboring buildings, fire officials said.

A fire official told AFP that the first building that caught fire was also used as chemical warehouse. The other residential buildings that caught fire may have also served as places to store chemicals.

The Dhaka Tribune reported that the building "housed a warehouse of plastic products."

Over 200 firefighters are working to put out the blaze, which has continued to burn into early Thursday morning.

The fire has several similarities to a devastating blaze in 2010 at a building in Dhaka that killed more than 120 people. Following the 2010 fire, city authorities launched a crackdown on chemical warehouses in residential areas, but the drive to remove them has lost steam in recent years.

rs/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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