Thursday, July 25

Bangladesh Fire Kills at Least 44 in Shopping Mall

At least 44 people were killed and dozens were injured when a fire ripped through a shopping mall late Thursday night in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, officials said.

Bachchu Mia, a police inspector at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, where several victims were being treated, said that 27 of the 44 dead had been identified and that their bodies had been handed over to their families.

“Most of them died of suffocation, not burning,” he said, making it easier to identify them.

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

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

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

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.

Alamgir Hossain, an assistant director at the fire department, said that a restaurant called Kacchi Bhai had been offering a special on Thursday night.

Mass-casualty 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 at more than 50 people.

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.”