At least nine workers were killed and around 100 injured in a devastating fire at a garment factory near Dhaka Export Processing Zone in Ashulia last night.
The dead included seven female and two male workers of the factory, Officer-in-Charge of Ashulia Police Station SM Badrul Alam told The Daily Star around 1:45am today.
Police, fire-fighters and witnesses said those killed in the incident did not suffer burns, but they died after jumping off different floors of the eight-storey Tazreen Fashion at Nischintapur in a bid to escape the blaze that started on the ground floor around 6:50pm.
The flames soon spread up to the fourth floor.
Fifteen fire-fighting units from Ashulia, Savar, Dhamrai, Tongi and the capital were trying to douse the fire as of filing this report around 2:45am.
Panic-stricken workers, especially the women, started running helter-skelter and jumped off the building. This left many of them seriously injured.
Four of those who jumped died on the spot.
Harunur Rashid, assistant manager of the nearby Centre for Women and Child Health, said they received the bodies of four female workers. They were identified as Moriyum, 25, Morsheda, 26, Mousumi, 26 and Nurunnesa, 30.
A male worker, identified as Maruf, 22, died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital around 10:00pm.
The identity of the four other dead could not be known immediately as relatives took away their bodies from the spot, said OC Badrul.
Eight other workers with head, hand and leg injuries were undergoing treatment at DMCH.
The injured were first rushed to the Centre for Women and Child Health for treatment. "We treated 53 while 10 were referred to different hospitals in Dhaka as their condition was critical," said Harunur Rashid.
Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defence Abu Naim Mohammad Shahidullah, told reporters at the spot that the fire might have originated from an electrical short circuit. However, he added, nothing could be said for sure before a thorough investigation.
The rescuers brought down about 50 workers trapped on the rooftop of the building.
Moinul, a worker of Tazreen Fashion, said, "Around 6:50pm, I was about to enter the factory building when I heard the fire alarm. I saw flames and fumes coming out of the ground floor."
He said some workers managed to come out but many got trapped inside as the fire quickly spread. "I saw many of my fellow workers jumping from the building."
Some workers said there was an emergency exit at the building but they could not use it, as they were not trained to do that.
"About 200-250 workers were on over-time duty on several floors when the fire started at the cotton godown on the ground floor," said Monsur Khaled, chief of crisis management cell of BGMEA.
Three fire-fighting units from EPZ rushed there at 7:15pm. They tried to douse the fire with the help of locals. Twelve more units joined them later.