21 killed in fire in Bangladesh
Mar 6, 2007 - 7:02:51 PM

Dhaka, March 6 - At least 21 people, including 10 children, were killed Tuesday when a fire engulfed a slum in Bangladesh's port city Chittagong.

According to the Fire Brigade, the fire broke out in a godown near Chittagong, 264 km southeast of capital Dhaka, at about 1.50 a.m. local time - and soon spread to adjacent slums having tin-roof houses. Those killed were 10 children, eight women and three men.

The victims could not come out as the shanties they were sleeping in turned into infernos and the single exit from three blocks of the slums was narrow.

'The raging fire woke them up. They frantically tried to come out but failed, except a few, as the passage was also on fire,' said a spot account of the tragic scene.

Local news agency UNB quoted the deputy director of the Fire Brigade as saying that the blaze might have originated from a mosquito coil at the godown.

Nine vans of six firefighting units rushed in and doused the flames in a four-hour-long operation.

'The firefighters pulled out 21 charred bodies from the ashes in a bizarre scene, as many in the throngs of onlookers screamed,' the firsthand report said, adding that they also rescued eight injured people who narrowly escaped the devastating fire.

The slums were illegally built on the occupied lands and fenced off with eight-foot-high walls having a lone narrow exit, UNB quoted local sources as saying.

But, Khaleq Sawdagar, a local supporter of former ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party, denied the allegation of illegally establishing the slums. 'I've built the slums on my own land. It's no occupied land,' Khaleq was quoted as saying by UNB.

'As the slums were situated about 300-350 yards inside the main road, and the entrance is very narrow and congested, the fire brigade vehicles could not get to the spot in time,' said the Fire Brigade deputy director.

The firefighters had to put out the blaze in an alternative way, he added.

The Chittagong City Corporation authorities announced that they would build houses on the same land for the affected families.

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