The death toll from Thursday’s devastating fire in 23-storey commercial building at Banani in Dhaka rose to 25 as the Fire Service and Civil Defence announced the end of the search and rescue operation on Friday afternoon.
The fire in Faruk Rupayan Tower also left about 100 injured, at least 88 of whom were still undergoing treatment at different government and private hospitals in Dhaka.
Fire service officials blamed narrow emergency exit blocked by rooms and stuff at different levels and poor fire fighting system for the high casualties.
They found suffocation as one of the major reason for the casualties.
The fire erupted barely a month after at least 70 people were killed in a fire in buildings where illegally stored chemicals exploded at Chawk Bazar in the Old Town of Dhaka on February 20.
The police and Dhaka district administration officials said that the death toll from the Banani fire was 25 — six women and 19 men, including a Sri Lankan national.
‘We handed over all the 25 bodies to their families, who took the bodies of 10 victims from Dhaka Medical College Hospital, 6 from Kurmitola General Hospital, 4 from Combined Military Hospital, 3 from United Hospital, 1 from Apollo Hospital and 1 from Banani Clinic,’ said Dhaka district senior assistant commissioner Md Imrul Hasan.
He said that neither Faruk-Rupayan Tower owner SMHI Faruk nor the building’s owners’ society president Tasbirul Islam could be reached for comments.
The owners of shops and offices inspected their respective spaces in the burnt building along with police and fire service officials and took valuables what they found, he said.
The building caught fire at about 12:45pm on Thursday and 22 fire fighting units could douse it at about 7:00pm, said fire service headquarters control room officials.
They, however, said that the reason and source of fire could be ascertained after investigation.
A number of the witnesses said that the fire broke out at eighth floor of the building.
Bangladesh army, navy, air force and police, among others, joined the fire fighters.
Many people jumped from the height as smoke and flame engulfed the building very quickly while several others fell down while trying to slide down cables and died on the spot.
Civil rescuer Md Jasim Uddin said that many people requested the fire service times and again to rescue them by signalling to them with mobile phone lights and clothes and waving hands as they found no fire exit or emergency exit route.
Fire service senior station officer and in-charge of the control room set on the spot Shahjahan Sikder at 2:00pm said that they had to endure a lot of hardship to fight fire as the building was constructed violating the building code.
‘Though there were a few fire extinguishers at places of the building, we doubt whether there was anyone to use them,’ he said, adding that the fire spread quickly as there were a huge number of inflammable furniture.
He said that they could rescue 70 trapped people alive from the building and the seventh, eighth and ninth floors of the building were the worst affected while a few upper floors were also affected.
‘Besides the previous night’s search and rescue operation, a team of 10 rescuers of fire service finally searched all the floors Friday morning and found none injured or dead. So, we have concluded our search and rescue operation at 1:00pm and handed the building to the police for ensuring security,’ he said.
The control room officials said that they admitted 45 injured to Kurmitola General Hospital, 10 to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, 1 to Combined Military Hospital and 20 to United Hospital.
Besides, six were undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospital, five at Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital and one at Lalmatia BD Hospital in Dhaka.
Fire service assistant director Saleh Uddin said that he, during search and rescue operation, found five bodies together on the stairs.
Part of the emergency exit, which was no more than 2.5 feet in width, was rented out by the building owner where tenants had built offices, he said.
‘It cannot be called fire escape anyway,’ he said.
No case was lodged for the fire, said inspector general of police Mohammad Javed Patwary while visiting the spot at about 3:30pm on Friday.
He said that a case would be lodged against the building owner and police would lodge the case in case of failure of the victim families to file any.
The police chief said that they had identified the building owner but could not establish communication with him.
While visiting the spot Friday morning, housing and public works minister SM Rezaul Karim said, ‘It’s not an accident, but murders. No one of those responsible for such a cruel carnage will be spared. Tough actions will be taken against them, no matter how much powerful they are.’
At least five committees have already been formed to investigate the fire and whether the building was constructed following the building code.
Of them, home ministry formed a six-member probe body headed by security services division additional secretary Tarun Kanti Shikder, fire service formed a five-member committee, ministry of disaster management formed an eight-member probe body, housing and public works ministry formed a seven-member probe body and Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh formed an eight-member committee.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha chairman Abdur Rahman said that the city development authority formed a five-member committee to investigate how the owner extended the building to 23 storeys despite having approval for 18 storeys.
Of the deceased, the Sri Lankan national was Nirosh Vigma Rajah, 28, who worked with Scanwell Logistics in the building, lived at a rented house on Road 18 of Block A at Banani.
The remaining deceased were Syeda Amina Yeasmin, 48, of Rampasha, Kamalganj in Moulvibazar, Mohammad Monir Hossain Sardar, 52, of Uttar Karapur in Barishal, Mohammad Maksudur Rahman, 32, of Gendaria in Dhaka, Md Abdullah Al Mamun, 40, of Baluadanga in Dinajpur, Md Mostafizur Rahman, 36, of Chatra at Pirganj in Rangpur, Md Mizanur Rahman, 35, of Kodla at Terokhada in Khulna, Florida Khanom Poly, 45, of Rupnagar Housing in Dhaka, Ataur Rahman, 62, of Tajmahal Road at Mohammadpur, Mohammad Rezaul Karim Raju, 40, of Dakhkhin Nagda at Matlab in Chandpur, Ahammad Zafar, 59, of Nabinagar at Sonargaon in Narayanganj, Jebunnesa, 30, of Lakshminarayanpur at Begumganj in Noakhali, Md Salauddin Mithu, 25, of Modhubagh in Dhaka, Nahidul Islam Tushar, 35, of Mirzapur in Tangail, Tanjila Mouli, 25, of Santahar-Balipur in Bogura, Mohammad Parvez Sazzad, 46, of Balugram at Kashiani in Gopalganj, Md Iftiar Hossain Mithu, 37, of Kumarkhali in Kushtia, Sheikh Zarin Tasnim Brishti, 25, of Bejpara in Jessore, Mohammad Fazle Rabbi, 30, of Uttar Bhuigarah at Fatulla in Narayanganj, Atiqur Rahman, 42, of Shailpara in Shariatpur, Anjir Siddique Abir, 27, of College Road at Patgram in Lalmonirhat, Abdullah Al Faruque, 62, of Purba Bagair at Demra, Rumki Akhter, 30, of Billaluri at Jaldhaka in Nilphamari, Md Manzur Hasan, 49, of Boalia in Naogaon Sadar and Amir Hossain Rabbi, 29, of Gangahati Charpara at Ataikula in Pabna.
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