Rescue operation suspended after 17 killed in Old Dhaka building blast

The blast damages the structure badly, forcing the firefighters to suspend the rescue operation for the night

Published : 7 March 2023, 11:44 AM
Updated : 7 March 2023, 11:44 AM

Many people are feared trapped under the rubble of a building at Siddique Bazar after an explosion killed at least 17 people and injured over 100 others in the crowded marketplace in Old Dhaka.

The authorities have suspended the rescue operation for the night due to risks of a building falling down at Siddique Bazar after a blast caused its partial collapse, killing at least 17 people and injuring 100 others in the crowded marketplace in Old Dhaka.

“It’s not possible to enter it and conduct the rescue operation because the building is in a risky state due to damaged pillars,” Lt Col Tajul Islam, a Fire Service and Civil Defence director, said on Tuesday night.

“The operation has been postponed for the night. We’ll resume it tomorrow,” he said, hours after the explosion – the third in a week in Bangladesh to claim lives following explosions at an oxygen plant in Chattogram’s Sitakunda and another building on Mirpur Road in Dhaka.

Brig Gen Md Main Uddin, director general of the fire service, said customers, shopkeepers and workers were inside as the stores in the building were open during the blast. “We can’t confirm how many are trapped.”

He said an army team arrived with their equipment to help in the rescue operation in the basement. But the rescuers could not continue as the columns were too damaged.

The cause of the blast could not be confirmed.

Earlier, Hafiz Akter, additional commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said many people were trapped in the basement because the first and the second floors collapsed on the ground floor of the seven-storey building.

Eleven firefighting units were conducting rescue operations, trying to cut through the concrete to rescue the trapped victims, after the blast occurred around 4:50pm.

Police officer Hafiz said there were “a lot of casualties”. He described the explosion as the biggest in recent times.

The injured were sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said Inspector Bachchu Mia of the DMCH police outpost, confirming the death toll.

The dead are Mominul Islam, 38, his wife Nodi Akter, Mohammad Sumon, 21, Ishaque Mridha, 35, Mansur Hossain, 40, Mohammad Ismail, 42, Al Amin, 23, Mohammad Rahat, 18, Main Udiin, 50, Nazmul Hossain, 25, Obaidul Hasan Babul, 55, Abu Zafar Siddique, 34, Akritti Begum, 70, Md Idris Mir, 60, ‘Hridoy’, 20, Nurul Islam Bhuiyan, 55, and Md Siam, 19.

Some of the victims admitted to the hospital suffered serious injuries, said DMCH Director Brig Gen Nazmul Haque.

Assistant Professor Dr SM Ayub, the resident surgeon at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, said they admitted eight patients.

Four of them have more than 50 percent of their bodies burnt, according to him. One has 98 percent burnt. “They are in critical condition.”

“Each of the injured is in a very bad state,” said Prof Samanta Lal, the coordinator of the institute.

The blast ripped through the building and badly damaged the first two floors. It housed several stores for sanitary products and household items. The explosion took down the walls and sent office equipment flying onto the street.

A branch of BRAC Bank and the bank’s SME service centre are located in Saki Plaza, a five-storey building adjacent to the blast site.

“The explosion completely shattered the glasses on the exterior of the bank. The flying glass shards injured several bank officials,” said Abdur Rahim, a spokesman for the bank.

Asked what caused the blast, DMP Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq said: “Experts are looking into whether this was an accident or a sabotage. You know explosions can occur when gas builds up.”

A BRTC bus counter was located near the blast site, with many vehicles and pedestrians on the busy street. Employees of different stores of the building and bus drivers and passengers were also among the injured.

The power connections of some customers in the area have been disconnected in the aftermath of the blast, but the distribution line remains unaffected, said Bikash Dewan, managing director of Dhaka Power Distribution Company.

After the explosion, the presence of the local people on the road caused traffic congestion, which obstructed the rescue efforts by first responders. The police had to halt traffic on several roads.


DMP Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq visited the site and said experts were looking into whether this was an accident or a sabotage.

He suggested the blast might have occurred by gas accumulated in the building.

“You know explosions can occur when gas builds up,” he said.

Fire service chief Main Uddin, however, said the shop owners told them there was no gas connection in the lower floors of the building.

“We’ll let you know what happened after an investigation.”

Anisur Rahman Mia, chairman of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, also went to the scene.

“It appears gas accumulated in the building from a leakage. The blast might have occurred when someone lit up a matchstick. The fire service officials haven’t confirmed anything.”