Fire at Bangladesh's largest mall kills guard

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The Independent Online

A fire swept through Bangladesh's largest shopping mall today, killing a security guard and sending frightened shoppers fleeing outside, officials said.

At least 17 other people were taken to hospitals after suffering from smoke inhalation, Bangla Vision television reported.

The blaze broke out on the 18th floor of the capital's 22-story Bashundhara City mall, fire official Selina Chowdhury said. The flames spread to other floors despite efforts by firefighters in 15 fire trucks, she said.

Television footage showed huge flames shooting into the air amid billowing smoke as hundreds of people, many carrying shopping bags, ran out of the mall. It opened in 2004 and has more than 2,000 stores and cafes.

Doctors at Shamarita Hospital said a security guard died from burns.

Army troops joined police and firefighters in the rescue work, said Abul Kalam Azad, the spokesman for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

An air force helicopter rescued three people, including the chief security officer at the mall, from the roof, fire official Mahbubur Rahman said.

Rahman said the blaze, fanned by summer winds, continued burning for nearly four hours.

It was unclear how many people were inside the mall when the fire started.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. The floor where it began has the offices of the mall's owner, the Bashundhara company, which would normally be closed on Fridays, part of the weekend in Bangladesh.