Banani skyscraper death toll jumps to 25

First Leaf Desk 2019-03-29 exclusive

The final official death toll in Thursday’s skyscraper inferno in city’s Banani today stood at 25 with rescuers overnight extracting more bodies from rubbles.

“The toll eventually stood at 25,” Mayor of North Dhaka Atiqul Islam told an instant news briefing at the scene in the capital’s posh Banani areaon Friday as fire service rescuers aided by military troops nearly completed their search for bodies inside the 22-storey FR Tower.

He reconfirmed that all but one were Bangladeshis while officials earlier said the fire killed one Sri Lankan national as he jumped off the building in his abortive attempt to escape the blaze.

Fire service officials earlier said most of the casualties took place inside the high-rise building while their bodies were found during the search operation.

A police spokesman said 24 of the bodies were handed over to relatives while the body of the 25th victim, believed to be a government official, was kept at a government hospital for DNA test.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier mourned the casualties and ordered free treatment of 73 wounded people in different hospitals.

Housing Minister SM Rezaul Karim, meanwhile, called the tragedy as a man- made “massacre” attributing the blaze to flawed design of the skyscraper that was raised ignoring safety standards and violating government rules.

He said according to the government papers, the building was supposed to be a 18-storey structure while four more floors were constructed defying the design approved by the authorities.

“The people, whoever they are, will not be spared . . . they will be exposed to stern punitive actions,” Karim told newsmen while visiting the
scene.

Local Government Minister Md Tazul Islam today also echoed the housing minister while visiting the spot, saying “the responsible person, whoever he is, will have to face consequence”.

Fire service officials were yet to comment what sparked the blaze that originated at around 12.55 pm yesterday and quickly spread to two adjacent
high-rise buildings while all the three structures housed offices and commercial entities including restaurants and a private TV channel.

But newsmen and residents in the neighbourhood said it may have originated from the eighth floor inside the complex.

It took fire fighters more than six hours to extinguish the blaze with armed forces personnel when five military and air force helicopters were
deployed to drop water and air lift trapped people.

People trapped inside were seen waving frantically and shouting for help from windows on the upper floors of the building when passersby stood watching and praying below as heavy smoke deterred rescuers efforts to get close to them.

Firefighters, however, shattered the building’s glass walls to free toxic gas and eventually rescued over 70 people.

Despite the end of the search campaign inside the ravaged structures, police blocked a major thoroughfare that passed through the structures for safety reasons as broken glasses were dangling from the largely glass-fitted outer structures of the buildings.

Several government authorities including the fire service overnight launched investigations into the fire while fire service officials said their
5-member committee was asked to submit report within seven days.

The fire broke out barely a month after a massive blaze in Dhaka’s old quarter that killed at least 70 people and injured 50 others while fire
service officials attributed the blaze to chemicals illegally stored in dilapidated buildings.BSS.

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