Bangladesh apartment fires leave 100 dead

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The Independent Online

The death toll after a devastating fire raced through several apartment complexes in the Bangladeshi capital has passed 100, local media reported today.

Fire official Nazrul Islam said the blaze started when an electric transformer exploded on Thursday, igniting a three-storey apartment building in the Najirabazar area of Dhaka. He said the fire spread to other buildings where 87 bodies were later recovered.

He said some injured people might have died later on the way to hospital or while there, but would not give an exact figure.

Citing officials at the scene and hospital doctors, ATN Bangla television station reported that at least 104 people had died, and that more than 100 were injured.

"It has caused a huge devastation," Mr Islam said.

He said the firefighters have the blaze under control and the rescue operation is continuing.

He said the victims included many guests of a wedding party on the roof of one building.

Bangla Vision TV station quoted unnamed fire officials as saying the fire spread to at least 20 apartment complexes.

TV footage showed firefighters and residents transporting the injured by tricycle rickshaws to hospitals while many relatives of the victims were wailing.

Bangla Vision said the rescue effort was hampered as the area is crammed with buildings and roads are narrow.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her shock at the incident and offered condolences to the families of the victims. She ordered authorities to provide all medical support to the injured.

Citing officials at the scene and hospital doctors, ATN Bangla television station later reported that at least 108 people had died, and that more than 100 others were injured.

At the state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital, staff struggled overnight to treat the injured as overwhelmed relatives and family members gathered.

"I haven't seen such a scenario in my 40 years of career," Shamanta Lal Sen, the hospital's burns unit chief, told reporters.