A deadly explosion has killed at least 19 people and injured about 140 others in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The explosion hit the fourth and fifth floors of a five-storey building in Gulistan, a major trading area in Dhaka, at about 5 pm local time on Tuesday.
Officials say they are still investigating the cause of the incident, and it was unclear if it was an accident or sabotage.
“We are not sure, but it seems accidental,” Mahid Uddin Khondekar, additional commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said. He added that firefighters and rescuers are at the scene, and the casualty would become clearer at the end of their operations.
Doctors at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) are working hard to help save the over 100 victims brought to the hospital. Medical Director of the hospital Nazmul Islam said several nurses and doctors have been mobilised to care for the victims, and that the nature of the injuries suggests the severity of the explosion.
“The pattern of the injuries shows that it was a huge explosion,” Mr Islam said, adding that some of the victims were being treated for head injuries at the hospital while others are also receiving treatment in other hospitals.
Although there were no fire incidents at the building, at least 150 firefighters were on the ground to help in the rescue operation. Fire Department Chief Brigadier General Main Uddin said there was a possibility that people could be stuck inside the building after several hours of the blast.
One of the victims, a middle-aged man, said he sustained injuries in the blast and that it damaged windows and parts of several buildings.
“There were people lying on the floor. I escaped by climbing out of the window,” the man said.
The crowded streets and market
Although there were relatively few people inside the building at the time of the explosion, the busy nature of the area was the reason for the high numerous deaths and multiple injuries. One eyewitness, who is a bus driver, said at least 30 of his passengers sustained injuries of various degrees.
“I heard a loud explosion and then I was hit in the head by a flying object,” the driver told journalists.
Several other passersby were affected by the explosion, as market activities were ongoing at the time of the incident.
The unfortunate history of fire incidents
Although Bangladesh is known for its beautiful landscape, there is something else it is becoming known for. Industrial incidents. Citizens have blamed the multiple incidents on corruption and the inability to enforce government policies.
In 2012, 117 workers were killed when they got trapped behind locked doors inside a factory where garments are made.
In 2013, another industrial disaster occurred. This time, it was more severe. A collapsed building, housing a Hotel outside Dhaka, killed at least 1,100 people and injured several others. Fast forward to 2019, a massive fire razed through a building in Dhaka, killing at least 67 people. In 2010, a fire in a house where chemicals are stored illegally killed at least 123 people. In 2022, a fire outbreak at a shipping container storage depot killed 41 people, including nine firefighters. Several others were injured in these incidents.