One person was killed and 10 others were injured as flammable chemicals caught fire and exploded at a shop on the ground floor of a residential building in the capital's Tejgaon yesterday.
Most of the victims were pedestrians and at least six of the injured are fighting for life with over 30 percent of their bodies burnt. Two university students and a minor boy are among the injured.
The dead is Abdul Latif, 50, a rickshaw van puller. He had been admitted to the burn unit of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital with 96 percent burns. He succumbed to his injuries around 1:00am today.
Sources said the blast occurred at Mahfuz Sewing and Electric, a shop that sells accessories for garment factories in East Tejturi Bazar near Farmgate around 2:45pm.
“We had brought a 200-litre barrel of paint thinner into our shop and opened it and we smelt something very unusual. As soon as I rushed out of the shop, I saw a fire followed by a loud bang," Mahmudul Hasan, owner of the shop, told The Daily Star at a hospital writhing in pain.
At least 35 percent of his body was burnt.
Employees of a nearby garment factory rushed in with their fire-fighting equipment. "We used around 100 extinguishers and water to douse the fire …," said Monzur Haque, a supervisor at Alauddin and Sons Pvt Ltd.
He said around 20 of his employees fought the blaze before two fire engines reached the scene 20 minutes after the explosion.
Pedestrians and university students Shammi Akther Jhilik, 20, and Rifat Ara Yasmin, 20, burnt their legs as they were passing the shop on foot.
Junaid, an eyewitness who works at one of the garment factories housed in the building across the shop, said Jhilik and Yasmin tried to run away from the flames but the fire caught up with them. “The flames whooshed along the alley burning pedestrians' feet,” he said.
The victims were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital's burn unit.
Burn injury expert Samanta Lal Sen termed critical the conditions of Mahmudul, his shop employee Abdul Motalib, 13, with 75 percent burns, Shafiul Azam, 56, with 95 percent burns, Ibrahim Khalil, 35, with 91 percent burns, and Zahirul, 60, with 34 percent burns.
The other injured include Masud, 38, with 25 percent burns, Zakir, 25, with 25 percent burns, and restaurant cook Ujjal, 24, with 15 percent burns.
Director (operations and maintenance) Major Muhammad Mahboob of Fire Service and Civil Defence told The Daily Star that gas from the barrel could have ignited by anything from lit cigarettes to burning stoves of the restaurant across the alley.
The shop was on the ground floor of a four-storey residential building on a narrow alley close to Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue. The building has nine shops on the ground floor and it is across the alley from a large building that houses several garment factories.
On June 3, 2010, a fire fuelled by flammable chemicals stored at a shop on the ground floor of a residential building in Nimtoli of Old Dhaka killed 123 people.
Meanwhile, four workers of a shoe factory suffered burns after their factory caught fire at the capital's Kamrangirchar area yesterday evening.
Fuelled by chemicals stored in the factory, the fire, originating from an electric switch around 6:00pm, engulfed the factory within minutes, said Sub-Inspector Shah Mohammad Shazu of Kamrangirchar Police Station.
Locals doused the fire in the factory, made of corrugated iron sheets, within 30 minutes, he added.