Investigation begun as death toll rises to 98 in Bangladesh fire

Firefighters and bystanders try to extinguish a fire that killed more than 100 people in a residential area of Dhaka, Bangladesh, late Thursday. (Khorshed Alam/Associated Press)
Authorities in Bangladesh have set up an investigation into a fire that raged through residential buildings, shops and a market, killing nearly 100 people in Dhaka, officials said Friday.

Firefighters said they pulled 98 bodies from the ashes of Thursday’s fire, many of which were burned beyond recognition. More than 200 survivors with severe burns were undergoing treatment at the capital’s two main hospitals, a hospital official said.

State-run television put the death toll at 108.

The fire broke out at 9 pm (1500 GMT) Thursday after an electric transformer explosion at Nimtoli in the old part of the city. Flames soon spread to seven residential buildings, trapping many occupants inside, and a plastics factory, said Abdus Salam, deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence.

Firefighters, soldiers and police on Friday morning relaunched a search for bodies in the buildings. The government set up two investigation committees to determine the cause of the blaze. They were asked to report back in a week.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and opposition leader Khaleda Zia expressed shock at the deaths in separate messages. The opposition leader called for an investigation into whether there were any failings in the rescue operations.

The fire took place two days after at least 22 people were killed in a building collapse in the capital’s Tejgaon area.
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