Massive fire guts popular clothing market in Bangladesh capital
Fire fighters and army personnel have extinguished a fire that ripped through a crowded shopping complex in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka early on Tuesday, 4 April 2023, injuring several fire fighters and burning down some 5 000 stores. The complex hosts some 3 000 shops in the Bangabazar area, home to the country's famed cloth markets. The blaze broke out in the early hours before businesses had opened and spread to neighbouring outlets, officials said. Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Director, Brigadier General Main Uddin, said that several fire fighters had been injured, two of them critically.
About 48 units of Fire Service and Civil Defence along with rescue teams from the army, police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Detective Branch (DB) and Air Force took part in the operation to contain the fire.
Anwarul Islam, another fire service official, said they were yet to determine the cause of the fire.
Brigadier General Uddin said his department had declared the market and surrounding buildings as "risky" in 2019 but that "businesses didn’t pay heed to the warnings". He did not elaborate whether his department had taken any other action to ensure compliance with fire safety norms apart from issuing the warnings. A committee would be formed to investigate the cause of the fire, he added.
Images from the scene show black smoke billowing from the burning complex, with bystanders, including children, forming a human chain to pass plastic containers of water to help the fire fighters.
Most of the stores, which were fully stocked ahead of the festival of Eid later this month, were burnt to the ground in the blaze, fire official Rashid Bin Khalid told media.
"I have never seen such a fire in my life. Everything in my shop was burnt down," Abdul Mannan said, breaking down in tears while talking to his relatives on his phone.
Hundreds of people have died in fires in Bangladesh over the years due to lax safety norms.
Intense scrutiny of Bangladesh and the major international clothing retailers that manufacture in the country has helped prevent further disasters in the garment sector since a fire in 2012 and a building collapse in 2013 together killed more than 1 200 workers.
But in other industries, mainly catering to Bangladesh's booming domestic economy and without an equal emphasis on safety, hundreds have died in fires in recent years.
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