15 killed, over 100 injured as explosion rocks seven-storey building in Dhaka

The blast shook the fourth and fifth floors of a seven-storey building in Gulistan, a major hub for wholesale goods in Dhaka. The cause of the explosion could not be known immediately.

Published: 07th March 2023 07:06 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2023 08:29 PM   |  A+A-

Onlookers gather outside the site of an explosion, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo | AP)

By Online Desk

DHAKA: At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in Bangladesh's capital Tuesday, officials said, after an explosion inside an office building in a bustling commercial district.

The cause of the explosion could not be known immediately, but local residents suspected chemicals illegally stored inside the building, mostly used as an office and business complex, might have sparked the blast.

The blast shook the fourth and fifth floors of a seven-storey building in Gulistan, a major hub for wholesale goods in Dhaka. The building has several stores for sanitary products on the bottom floor and a branch of BRAC Bank was located in the building adjacent to it.

Several floors of the building and the side walls were destroyed in the explosion, which sent rubble and splinters flying into crowded streets. The blast shattered the glass walls of the bank and also damaged a bus standing on the opposite side of the road, reports said.

Five firefighting units were rushed to the spot after the blast, which occurred around 4:50 pm (local time), the bdnews24 news portal reported, citing the fire service control room.

"At first, I thought it was an earthquake. The entire Siddik Bazar area was shaken by the blast," eyewitness Safayet Hossain, a local shopkeeper, told The Daily Star newspaper.

"I saw 20-25 people lying in the road in front of a damaged building. They were seriously injured and bleeding. They were crying out for help. Some people were running around in panic," he said.

He added that the locals were carrying the injured in vans and rickshaws to the hospital.

Alamgir, who was close to the blast site, said, "After the loud noise, people quickly came out of the building. There was panic on everyone's faces. The glass of the building's windows shattered and fell onto the street. Many pedestrians on the street were injured."

The Rapid Action Battalion's bomb disposal unit was rushed to the spot to inspect the buildings. Dozens of injured were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said DMCH police outpost j+spector Bacchu Miah. He added that all of them were receiving treatment at the hospital's emergency unit.

Fire officials carry a body of a victim after an explosion, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo | AP)

More than 100 people were treated for head wounds, fractures and other injuries at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, hospital director Nazmul Islam told AFP. "At least 15 people have died, including two women," he said, adding that hundreds of doctors and nurses had been mobilised to treat the injured.

No substantial fire broke out in the building, which housed dozens of warehouses, shops selling bathroom fittings, and other commercial spaces. More than 150 firefighters were at the site to assist in rescue efforts, a fire services spokesperson said.

"Our officers are investigating whether it was an act of sabotage or an accident," police commissioner Khandaker Golam Faruq told reporters.

A bus driver caught in the blast said 30 of his passengers were injured when his vehicle passed the building as the blast hit. "I heard a loud explosion and then I was hit in the head by a flying object," he told reporters. Another witness said people were trapped on the second, fourth and fifth floors of the building when firefighters arrived and rushed them to the hospital.

Bangladesh has a history of industrial disasters, including factories catching fire with workers trapped inside. They occur mostly between November and March when the weather is dry and cold. Monitoring groups have blamed corruption and lax enforcement.

In 2012, about 117 workers died when they were trapped behind locked exits in a garment factory in Dhaka. The country’s worst industrial disaster occurred the following year, when the Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

In 2019, a blaze ripped through a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka and killed at least 67 people. Another fire in Old Dhaka in a house illegally storing chemicals killed at least 123 people in 2010.

In 2021, a fire at a food and beverage factory outside Dhaka killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door. Last year, a fire at a shipping container storage depot near the country's main Chittagong Seaport killed at least 41 people, including nine firefighters, and injured more than 100 others.

(With Inputs from AFP, AP and PTI)


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