DHAKA • At least 25 people have been killed and 70 injured, many critically, in a huge fire triggered by a boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi packaging factory, officials said yesterday as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze.
Around 100 people were working when flames tore through the four-storey building in the industrial town of Tongi, just north of the capital Dhaka.
Dr Parvez Mia, who works at the Tongi government hospital, said the death toll was now 25, up from 22 which was previously reported. At least 70 people were injured.
The fire started in the boiler room at the Tampaco Foils factory, which supplies foreign and domestic brands.
Police inspector Aminul Islam said: "We still have not controlled the blaze and we fear some workers are still trapped in the factory."
Dr Mia said seriously injured victims had been sent to hospitals in Dhaka. "Several of them are in a very critical condition," he added.
Factory electrician Mohammad Rokon, 35, escaped with minor injuries. "I was working inside the office room when I heard an explosion and felt a tremor. Then suddenly, the ceiling started to fall on me," he told the media from his hospital bed. "I almost became unconscious. But I forced myself to go out with the help of my cellphone flashlight."
Machine operator Rubel Hossain was two minutes away from entering the factory when the blast occurred. "I heard a huge explosion and saw smoke and fire coming out of the factory," he said.
"I am simultaneously feeling lucky and heartbroken," he said, tears streaming down his face as he helped to rush the many injured to hospital, his T-shirt stained with blood.
The tragedy struck as families were preparing to celebrate the major Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
Ms Khaleda Begum, the sister of a factory worker killed in the accident, said: "My brother Delwar Hossain told us last night he would take us to our home district of Sherpur. Now, he is going to be buried there. Eid is ruined for our family."
Chemicals may have been stored on the ground floor of the factory, which would help explain how the blaze that began at 6am managed to spread so fast, said Mr Tahmidul Islam of Bangladesh's industrial police unit.