At least 19 people have been killed and 68 injured after an inferno broke out at a high-rise office building in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.
Military helicopters joined 21 firefighting units to help douse the blaze, which raced through the 19-storey Faruk Rupayan Tower in Dhaka’s upmarket Babani area at lunchtime Thursday (local time), leaving many people trapped inside.
A fire department official, Abdus Samad Azad, said it took a joint team of firefighters, army, navy and air force personnel more than six hours to put out the blaze.
The death toll is expected to rise further as firefighters continue to search inside the charred building, Fire Service and Civil Defence department official Rasel Sikder said.
More than 100 people were rescued from the building, with 68 sent to different medical facilities to be treated for injuries.
Of the 19 people who died, officer Khurshid Anwar of the Bangladesh Fire Service, said 13 were found inside the building in the evening.
The other six died after jumping from the 19-floor building, with earlier reports of at least one person who attempted to climb down the outside to escape the flames, falling to the ground.
A Sri Lankan national, identified as Nirash Chandra, died after he jumped out of the building, the head of Kurmitola General Hospital, Brigadier General Rafiqun Nabi, told reporters.
Witnesses described seeing many shouting for help from windows on high floors or from the roof.
Shoikot Rahman ran to safety after hearing colleagues raise the alarm.
“When I heard a fire broke out in the building, I quickly rushed out of the building,” he told AFP news agency.
“Many of my colleagues are still trapped in the office.”
Al Jazeera‘s Tanveer Chaudhry, who was at the scene, said firefighters faced severe difficulties because there were so many high-rise buildings close to each other on the narrow street.
“What made it twice as difficult was the number of people, onlookers, which made it difficult for the rescue workers’ mobility. Thousands of people are onlooking here,” Mr Chaudhry said.
At least 70 people were killed and 55 others injured in February after a fire broke out in a densely populated residential area at Chawk Bazar in the old part of Dhaka.