At least 10 people were killed and scores injured as a fire ripped through a building in old Dhaka's Chawkbazar last night, said Ali Ahmed, director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence.
The death toll is feared to rise, as one fire service official claimed seeing more than five bodies.
The fire broke out around 10:40pm at a chemical warehouse on the ground floor of the five-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion. The flames then quickly spread through three other buildings nearby, including a community centre, said the fire service chief.
Of those injured, at least 16 suffered burns while 30 others were injured while trying to escape the blaze.
Five of the burn victims were said to be in critical condition, while a number of people were reported missing.
The origin of the fire was unclear.
As many as 37 fire engines were still trying to bring the fire under control when this report was filed at 3:00am today.
A firefighter named Jashim told The Daily Star at the spot it may not be possible to douse the flames until all the chemicals burned out.
Rakibul Islam Sajeeb, a resident of the second floor of the four-storey building which also houses several chemical and plastic warehouses, said seven families lived there.
The community centre was closed. This newspaper could not immediately confirm whether there were any people in the other two buildings.
Abdul Karim, a local, said he was standing near the building around 10:40pm when he suddenly heard a bang. He heard a sound of explosion near the four-storey building. Flames soon spread to the building and a broken piece of glass hit him, leaving him injured.
Sohag Hossain, one of the injured, said he, along with two of his friends, were working at a plastic factory at the building at the time. Suddenly, they heard a huge noise before noticing the fire. They tried to flee but could not escape the fire.
He was being treated at the DMCH burn unit.
Many people from the area were seen looking for their relatives, who apparently went missing, at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital after the incident.
Of the injured, 44 were rushed to the hospital, Bacchu Miah, inspector at the DMCH police outpost, told this newspaper.
Sixteen of them suffered burns and nine were admitted to the burn unit of the DMCH. The other injured hurt themselves while trying to flee, he said.
Two other victims were taken to nearby Salimullah Medical College.
Several burnt vehicles were seen in front of the buildings.
Rafiqul Islam, a tenant at Hazi Wahed Mansion, said they had asked the landlord on several occasions in the past to remove the godowns from the building, but in vain.
The incident brings to mind the Nimtoli fire that killed 123 in 2010. It had sparked a public outcry, demanding relocation of chemical warehouses and stores from the area, but little has been done in the last nine years.