Panic as fire engulfs a high-rise in the capital

As the flames consumed the apartments, three people could be seen jumping off the 11th floor to escape, leaving one dead.


A fire broke out at a multi-storey building in the capital’s Gulshan last evening, leaving one dead and several others injured. Nineteen fire engines and an air force team brought the blaze under control around 11:00pm. In this photo, fire service members trying to extinguish the blaze and rescue people using aerial ladders. Photo: Palash Khan

February 20, 2023

DHAKA – A massive fire ripped through seven top floors of a 13-storey residential building in the capital’s Gulshan last night, leaving at least one man dead and dozens injured.

Firefighters rescued 11 women, a child and 10 others from the building on road 104.

The blaze was brought under control around 11:00pm last night after four hours of efforts by the firefighters who were joined at one point by the air force and army personnel.

The fire originated on the sixth floor around 7:00pm and quickly spread upwards as the rising plume of black smoke could be seen from far away.

Officials could not confirm the cause of the fire and extent of its damage. Firefighters said their efforts were delayed because of the crowd of hundreds of onlookers on the street.

As the flames consumed the flats, three people could be seen jumping off the 11th floor to escape the flames. One of them died.

Grieving family members identified the victim at Dhaka Medical College morgue as 30-year-old Anwar, who was the caretaker of a flat.

Another person who jumped from the seventh floor is Shama Rahman Sinha, 37. She was being treated at the ICU of Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery with critical injuries.

“The woman also has minor burns on her back,” said Prof Samanta Lal Sen, chief coordinator of burn institutes.

Shama is the wife of Fahim Sinha, director of ACME Group, Bangladesh Cricket Board, and Abahani Cricket Academy.

Their cook Raju was undergoing treatment at the ICU of a nearby hospital.

According to relatives, Shama was able to send her three children and mother-in-law downstairs on the lift after the fire broke out.

When the lift came back to the 12th floor, she got on it but was stuck on the seventh floor due to the power outage.

Then she got out of the elevator and got onto the balcony of the seventh floor. As the flames started growing, she jumped into the swimming pool next to the building.

Brig Gen Main Uddin, director general of the fire department, told reporters after 11:00pm that three people suffered burn injuries, and the firefighters were conducting a “search operation”.

He added the cause of the fire and whether there were proper fire safety measures would be known after the operation.

A firefighter who participated in the search operation told The Daily Star that it seemed a power cable of an AC caused it.

Nineteen fire engines from the fire department and five firefighting units and a helicopter of the air force took part in the efforts, officers said.

On the balcony of a 10-storey flat around 7:30pm, seven to eight people were seen waving the flashlights of their phones and were screaming for help.

Many others could be seen standing by the window and asking for help.

Dr Subrata Kumar Saha, chief medical administrator at Sikder Medical College Hospital in Gulshan, said 13 people were taken there. Eight were admitted to the hospital while five took primary treatment.

Eight other victims were admitted to the United Hospital in Gulshan, said Nasir, the hospital’s customer care supervisor.

“First, I couldn’t see the fire, soon saw smoke was coming out,” Mohammad Hasan, a private employee, who witnessed the fire incident, told The Daily Star.

“Minutes later, I saw someone on fire jumping off, shouting ‘bachao bachao’ [save us, save us] for several seconds,” he added.

Hasan said, “I was returning home after finishing work around 7:30pm. At that time, I saw hundreds of onlookers standing there.”

Survivor Rowshan Ali, 35, a staffer of a buying house, said he went to the house of Arif Ibrahim, managing director of the company, for some consultation.

He said he entered the 10th floor apartment around 6:40pm and was waiting at the drawing room with the MD’s driver Musa. After some time, they started smelling smoke.

At one point, they opened the flat’s entrance door and saw huge smoke clouding the area. They rushed to the lift, but found it switched off. Soon he and Musa ran to a balcony while the MD, his wife, two sons, a domestic help and Musa’s wife ran here and there for safety.

Standing on the balcony, they tried frantically to draw the attention of firefighters who were working at the opposite side of the building by torching mobile phones and throwing whatever they found around.

He said at one point he felt unconscious. Firefighters broke the balcony grill and rescued him and Musa.

“I cannot even think I’m still alive,” he told The Daily Star after regaining consciousness following the rescue.

The most damaged floors include the 6th, 10th and 11th.

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