Bangladesh building explosion kills at least 17; scores hurt

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — An explosion in a seven-story commercial building in Bangladesh's capital on Tuesday killed at least 17 people and injured dozens, officials said.

The explosion occurred in Gulistan area, a busy commercial area of Dhaka, fire department official Rashed bin Khaled said by phone.

The building contained several stores selling plumbing products and household items, and its first two floors were badly damaged, according to fire officials.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, but some reports said the explosion happened from accumulated gas.

Khaled said at least 11 fire department teams were working at the scene of the explosion.

Bacchu Mia, a police official at the state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said more than 50 people were taken there for treatment, and at least 14 of them were dead. The others later died from their injuries, he said. Local media reported at least 100 people were injured in the blast.

The United News of Bangladesh agency reported that people on the upper floors were trapped for hours after the explosion.

Brig. Gen. Main Uddin, director general of the Fire Servoce and Civil Defense, said they could not enter the ground floor and they had no clear data if anybody was trapped.

He said that it was not possible to get to the ground floor as the building became very risky because the columns that hold up the building had collapsed.

He said they would take help from the military after the search and rescue operation begin on Wednesday morning.

Bangladesh has a history of fires and industrial disasters, including factories catching fire with workers trapped inside. Monitoring groups have blamed corruption and lax enforcement.

A massive fire on Sunday at a crammed refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims in southern Bangladesh left thousands homeless. No casualties were reported at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar district.

In 2012, about 117 workers died when they were trapped behind locked exits in a garment factory in Dhaka.

The country’s worst industrial disaster occurred the following year, when the Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

In 2019, a blaze ripped through a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka and killed at least 67 people. Another fire in Old Dhaka in a house illegally storing chemicals killed at least 123 people in 2010.

In 2021, a fire at a food and beverage factory outside Dhaka killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door.

Last year, a fire at a shipping container storage depot near the country's main Chittagong Seaport killed at least 41 people, including nine firefighters, and injured more than 100 others.