RUPGANJ: Police said on Friday that a fire destroyed a factory in Bangladesh, causing at least 52 people to be trapped in the flames and forcing many workers to jump from high-rise buildings to survive.
As the fire continued to spread, about 30 people were injured, and hundreds of distraught relatives and other workers waited anxiously outside the food factory.
The inferno was the latest to tarnish Bangladesh’s safety record marred by a series of disasters in industrial complexes and apartment buildings.
In February 2019 at least 70 people died when an inferno ripped through Dhaka apartments where chemicals were illegally stored.
The latest fire broke out at Hashem Food and Beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town outside Dhaka, on Thursday afternoon and was still raging almost 24 hours later.
Police initially gave a toll of three dead but it rose dramatically as firefighters reached the upper floors and started bringing out dozens of bodies of trapped workers.
Amid the painful shouts and tears of people watching on the street, the charred victims were piled up in a line of ambulances and sent them to the morgue.
The police dispersed hundreds of people. They blocked a nearby road and clashed with the police.
Police inspector Sheikh Kabirul Islam said that the flames quickly engulfed the six-story building, and more than 30 people were injured, some of whom jumped from the stairs.
The emergency services department is working hard to put out the fire on the fifth and sixth floors. Firefighters rescued 25 people from the roof of a factory that produces noodle juice and sweets.
“Once the fire is under control, we will conduct internal search and rescue operations. Then we can confirm whether there are further casualties,” fire department spokesperson Debash Baldan told AFP.
Dhaka Fire Department Chief Dinu Moni Sharma said the fire was caused by the storage of highly flammable chemicals and plastics.
“On the third floor, gates on both stairwells were closed. Other colleagues are saying there were 48 people inside. I don’t know what happened to them,” he said.
Mamun, another worker, said he and 13 other workers ran to the roof after the fire broke out on the ground floor and black smoke quickly choked the whole factory.
“Firefighters brought us down by using rope,” he told reporters.
As clouds of smoke billowed from the factory building, many of the waiting relatives said they feared the worst.
Nazrul Islam said: “We came here because my niece was not receiving our phone calls for a while. And now the phone is not ringing at all. We are worried.”