Tuesday, June 25

Bangladesh Fire Kills at Least 44 in Shopping Mall

A fire ripped through a shopping mall in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, late Thursday, killing at least 46 people and leaving dozens of others injured, officials said.

The deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning after people became stuck in an enclosed room and suffocated from the smoke, the country’s health minister, Dr. Samanta Lal Sen, told reporters.

At least 75 other people were injured, fire officials said.

Earlier, Bachchu Mia, a police inspector at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, said that at least 27 bodies had been identified and sent to their families.

Witnesses said the shopping mall had one staircase and elevator, with no emergency exit, making escape difficult. Some people trapped inside jumped from higher floors, they said.

Deadly fires and industrial disasters, particularly in garment factories, have been a recurring problem in Bangladesh. The steady economic growth of the country of 170 million people has been a regional success story in recent years, but human rights and labor organizations have long expressed concern about poor working conditions and workplace safety measures.

The worst of the disasters happened in 2013, when the collapse of an eight-story garment factory killed more than 1,100 people. In 2021, a factory fire in the city of Narayanganj killed more than 50 people.

The fire erupted at about 9:51 p.m. on the mall’s second floor, which features a popular biryani restaurant, fire officials said. It quickly spread to the rest of the seven-story building, ripping through a clothing store on the third floor.

The restaurant, called Kacchi Bhai, said on its website that the fire had started on the ground floor. On its Facebook account, it posted a video of a part of the building’s ground floor ablaze in what appears to be an early stage of the fire.

It took crews at least two hours to put the fire out, officials said.

Video showed that most of the floors had been charred by the flames. A firefighter atop a fire engine ladder could be seen trying to extinguish a small fire that was still burning near one of the upper floors. Another video showed survivors being lowered onto a ladder as a crush of emergency workers, media and onlookers waited to receive them on street below.

The shopping mall, on Bailey Road, houses a mix of eateries and stores. Almost every floor has a restaurant, and most have gas cylinders, a fire official told a television news reporter. He added that the cylinders could have played a role in the fire spreading so quickly. It was unknown what caused the fire.

The mall is a popular spot on Thursdays, the end of the workweek in Bangladesh. On Friday morning, only a burned out husk remained.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police officers were investigating the scene on Friday morning, using a drone overhead. Police tried to corral hundreds of onlookers.

Ismail Hossain Sohel, an information technology engineer who often visited a restaurant and music cafe, Ambrosia, in the building, said he was about to enter just before the fire engulfed the mall.

“I’ve never seen a disaster like this before,” he said, recounting how a man had jumped from the third floor, injuring his head.

Salman Alim, who works at the Pizza Inn at the mall, said his workday had ended about two hours before the fire started.

By the time Mr. Alim returned, the fire was raging, he said. “None of our employees were killed,” he added. “They ran to the top floor, and the fire people rescued them.”

John Yoon contributed reporting.