3 killed as blast ravages commercial building
Three people were killed and at least 50 injured in a fiery explosion at a commercial building in the Science Lab area of Dhaka yesterday.
The area surrounding the three-storey "Shirin Mansion" looked like a warzone after the blast on the second floor around 10:50am shook the neighbourhood and engulfed it with thick black smoke.
The walls on the second floor collapsed and shards of glass and brick chunks were blown to nearby areas, witnesses said.
Four fire engines brought the fire under control around 11:15am.
Abdul Qadir, a security guard of an adjacent 14-storey building, said, "The explosion was so strong that the entire area trembled. Shortly afterwards, the residents of the building started coming out on to the street in panic. I saw people lying in front of the three-story building and everything was destroyed."
There were offices of an insurance company and a stationery product supplier on the second floor.
Deceased Shafiquzzaman Shafiq, 42, a computer operator; Sadikur Rahman Tusher, 31, a storekeeper; and Abdul Mannan, 63, an office assistant; were staffers of the stationery supplier.
"The three died on the spot. Something heavy fell on them during the blast," said Prof AMSM Sharfuzzaman, a doctor of the Popular Medical College Hospital which is close to the scene.
Mannan had been working there for over four decades.
His wife Shahida Begum told The Daily Star, "We lost our only nine-year-old daughter 33 days ago, and now my husband is gone. How are we going to survive now?"
Shafiq had worked there for 22 years and Tusher for eight.
An official of the Popular Medical College Hospital said they initially received about 40 injured.
A woman with 20 percent burns was admitted to the ICU and two men were admitted to the High Dependency Unit, he said.
Thirteen patients went to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, said Inspector Bacchu Mia, in-charge of the DMCH police outpost.
Five insurance company employees, including Zahur Ali with 44 percent burns, Ayesha Akter Asha with 38 percent burns, and Akbar Ali with 37 percent burns, were admitted to the burn institute, said Dr Samanta Lal Sen, coordinator of the institute .
A Dhaka University student and an autorickshaw driver also suffered critical head injuries in the explosion.
Traffic movement on Mirpur Road -- from Science Lab to Nilkhet intersection -- remained suspended for hours.
A team from the Bangladesh Army, and the bomb disposal unit of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) went to the scene to find out what caused the blast. They ruled out explosives and suspected that accumulated gas might have caused the explosion.
"With our detector, we have found the presence of gas at the scene. The massive scale of damage also suggests that the blast was caused by accumulated gas," Rahmat Ullah Chowdhury, in-charge of the bomb disposal unit, told The Daily Star, adding that the gas could have been from a leak in the pipeline or it could have come from the sewer.
"An explosion may occur if there is presence of 5-12 percent gas in the air of a confined space," he said.
Brig Gen Md Main Uddin, director general (DG) of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, also said they suspect gas to be the cause.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq ruled out sabotage and initiated a probe into the incident.
Contacted, Akram Hossain, owner of the stationery supplying company, said he had raised concerns about the safety and maintenance of the building but no action was taken as the owner lives abroad.
The Daily Star could not reach the owner of the building for comments.