At least 19 dead in Bangladesh business tower fire
Harrowing scenes of rescue recorded from helicopter, hydraulic crane in the capital Dhaka
A fire in a highrise office building in Bangladesh's capital on Thursday killed 19 people and injured dozens, officials said.
Many people were trapped inside the building, but fire officials said after battling the blaze for several hours that most had been rescued.
Fire officials said at least 19 firefighting units were working to douse the flames and rescue people inside the FR Tower, located on a busy avenue in Dhaka's Banani commercial district.
"The situation is under control," said Debashish Bardhan, a Fire Selearvice and Civil Defence deputy director.
The fire had lost some of its intensity, but was not yet fully extinguished late Thursday afternoon, Bardhan said, and firefighters were shattering the building's glass walls to free toxic gas.
Shahadat Hossain, a central control room duty officer for the Fire Service and Civil Defence, said 19 people had died and about 70 others had been hospitalized. The cause was being investigated.
A Facebook Live video taken by Roy Pinaki showed five people scaling down from windows while burnt building materials fell around them. One person slipped from what appeared to be a rope that people were using to escape, bounced off utility wires and fell to the ground.
Military helicopters joined the rescue operation and one person dangled from a helicopter hovering over the roof as thick plumes of smoke cascaded upward.
More than a dozen people who fled to the roof were rescued by firefighters using hydraulic cranes, Bardhan said.
Witness Sajib Hasan said some people shouted for help from windows on the upper floors of the building. Heavy smoke deterred efforts by responders to get close to them, but Hasan said he watched at least a dozen people get rescued.
Banani, the area where the fire broke out, is a busy commercial district with multistorey buildings housing offices, universities and restaurants.
Tushar-or-Rashid, an employee of the Vivid Holidays tour company on the building's first floor, said the fire began above them.
"All of our staff have come out safely, but we don't know what happened to the people who work in the upper floors," he said.
Fires are common in Bangladesh, where building regulations and safety norms are often violated. Last month, a fire in the oldest part of Dhaka, a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses, left at least 67 people dead.
In 2012, a fire raced through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 112 people trapped behind its locked gates. Less than six months later, another building containing garment factories collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.
Another fire in a house illegally storing chemicals in Old Dhaka killed at least 123 people in 2010.