The death toll from a horrific blaze that ripped through a Bangladesh skyscraper rose on Friday to 25, including some who leapt to their deaths, as firefighters combed through the charred shell of the building.
A day after flames tore through the 22-storey FR Tower in Dhaka, trapping hundreds of office workers, police said they intended to talk to the owner of the building as part of their enquiry.
Some of those stuck inside made it to safety by sliding down cables on the side of the building, but as shocked onlookers watched, others took their chances and jumped in a bid to escape the smoke and heat.
At least six people including a Sri Lankan national died in this way, officials said.
Senior fire service official Mohsin Ali told AFP that rescuers were scouring the building, concentrating on the worst-affected eighth-to-tenth floors.
The fire department intially put the death toll at 19 but police said Friday that six more had died in the fire.
"The death toll is 25. We have handed over 24 bodies to their relatives," deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mostak Ahmed told AFP. The other victim's remains are being held until relatives are located.
Ahmed said police also wanted to speak to the owner of the building after authorities alleged the tower lacked adequate safety measures.
There was no immediate indication if others are missing, but more than 70 people were treated in hospital in the wake of the blaze.
The fire erupted on Thursday afternoon in the upmarket Banani commercial district.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch as trapped workers screamed for help from smoke-logged floors.
Firefighters backed by military specialists - some in helicopters - tackled the blaze, lowering ropes to help people escape, while rescuers on long ladders smashed through windows.
Bangladesh authorities have ordered a probe into the incident to examine claims that the skyscraper lacked fire equipment, its fire exits were inadequate and it had been illegally extended.
Office building catches fire in Bangladesh capital
A fire broke out Thursday in a high-rise office building in Bangladesh’s capital and some people were feared trapped inside, witnesses and an official said.
Fire Department control room official Ershad Hossain said at least 19 firefighting units were working to douse the blaze and rescue people inside the FR Tower, located on a busy avenue in Dhaka’s Banani commercial district.
There was no immediate confirmation of casualties, but video showed at least one person falling from the building, apparently while trying to escape the fire.
Military helicopters joined the rescue operation, and one person dangled from a helicopter hovering over the roof as thick plumes of smoke cascaded upward.
Firefighters on hydraulic lifts trained two hoses on the building.
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 multistory 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. Rashid said the building has 21 floors.
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.