DHAKA — At least two people were killed and hundreds left trapped Monday when a massive blaze raced through an office tower in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, police and officials said.
Walls of flame and choking black smoke hampered rescue efforts by the military, which called in helicopters to battle the fire and try to save the unknown number of people stuck in the building, a well-known media centre.
Local television showed dozens of people huddled on the rooftop calling for help to thousands who massed on the streets below, as smoke billowed out of the lower floors of the 13-storey building.
“I am afraid several hundreds are still trapped inside the building,” local police chief Jane Alam told AFP. He said more than 2,000 people would be inside on a normal workday.
One woman died when she jumped from her sixth-floor office to escape the blaze while another person died in hospital. Dozens of people, some severely burned, were being treated.
“It was a hell-like situation,” said Samia Raman from NTV, the country’s biggest private television network, who managed to get out of the inferno.
“Dozens were injured as the fire spread through the electric lines in minutes,” Raman said. “I am afraid several people have died.”
City fire brigade chief Salim Bhuiyan said hundreds of fire workers, army rescue teams and police had been mobilised to contain the blaze.
“But it is racing along,” he said. “The building did not have proper fire protection facilities.”
Bhuiyan said the fire started on the second floor of the BSEC building and quickly spread.
“About 60 of us were working on the sixth floor and all of a sudden we saw smoke all over our floor. We ran to the balconies and cried for help. It was like hell,” Jashim Uddin, a cameraman with RTV, told AFP.
“The fire officials rescued only 25 of us. I don’t know what happened to others.”
The BSEC building houses several offices including NTV, sister network RTV and Bengali daily Amar Desh.
All three are owned by Mosaddek Ali Falu, a former lawmaker who was arrested this month on corruption charges.