A massive blaze tore through a food processing factory in an industrial town near Dhaka, killing at least 52 as workers trapped by flames in the multi-storey building were forced to leap for their lives from the fourth floor.
The blaze broke out at the Shezan Juice Factory in Rupganj, an industrial town 25 km east of the capital, on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m (local time) and was still burning nearly 25 hours later, Fire Service’s Director Operation, Lt Col Siddique Mohammed Zulfiqar Rahman told IANS on Friday afternoon.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock and sorrow over the tragedy.
Rahman also told IANS the fire rapidly spread because highly flammable chemicals and plastics had been stockpiled inside.
About 30 people were injured and more than a hundred are missing, said the awaited relatives. Hundreds of distraught relatives and other workers waited anxiously as emergency services brought out bodies from the burning building.
Rahman said that many of the workers injured had leapt for their lives from the upper floors in the complex. It was not confirmed how many people were trapped inside.
“Once the fire is under control, we will conduct a search and rescue operation inside. Then we can confirm any further casualties,” he said. Anwarul, a factory worker who escaped the fire, said there were dozens of people inside when the blaze began.
He also claimed that the fourth floor of the food processing factory was locked, and that is why most of the workers could not get out. The 49 bodies were recovered from the fourth floor of the factory, officials added.
The relatives of the workers also said that the workers at the spot informed them, over mobile, about the fire and that they were helpless as the gate was locked by the authority.
“On the third floor, the gate on the only stairwell was locked. Other colleagues are saying there were 48 people inside. I don’t know what happened to them.
“A dozen other workers ran to the roof after the fire broke out on the ground floor and black smoke covered the whole factory. Then the firefighters brought us down by using ropes,” worker Dildar Mia told IANS.
Most of the workers of the factory were adolescent girls, including his two daughters, said Billal Hossain, father of Mitu and Ritu, who worked there.
While the bodies of two women and a man who died after jumping out from the multi-storied building were recovered from outside, 49 burnt bodies were found inside and taken to the mortuary.
The duty officer of the mortuary of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) told IANS that the relatives of the deceased failed to identify the dead bodies, and only DNA tests can prove their identity.
The bodies were taken to the mortuary in a fleet of ambulances amid anguished shouts and tears from people watching in the streets.