What could be causing the series of explosions and fire in Dhaka?

Two explosions in two different buildings in Dhaka within a week caused the death of at least 20 people and counting

Liton HaiderObaidur Masumbdnews24.com
Published : 7 March 2023, 09:24 PM
Updated : 7 March 2023, 09:24 PM

The last fortnight has turned out to be immensely deadly for people in Dhaka. 

Close to two dozen people were killed, scores were injured in a massive building fire on Feb 19, an explosion inside a building due to lack of maintenance on Mar 5, and another explosion on Tuesday. 

The cause of the deadly explosion that killed 17 people so far and counting in Old Dhaka has yet to be ascertained.

Similar explosions have occurred in the last two years, notably, the blast inside a four-storied Moghbazar building, which resulted in the collapse and abandonment of the building. 

Former director general or DG of Fire Service and Civil Defense Brig Gen Md Sajjad Hossain said the situation is so severe that one might say Dhaka is “on the verge of imploding” due to the unplanned nature of utility lines underground. 

“If a massive earthquake hits Dhaka now, at least half the casualties will be burn victims since there’s no mapping of sewerage, gas and electricity lines underground, and nobody knows whether the lines overlap one another,” he said.

The lack of coordination between the utility service providers has been discussed for years, but apparently, any initiative has yet to be taken to address the issue.

“A detailed mapping is a must to learn about the situation of these lines coming in, and out of buildings in Dhaka, especially the ones built before Bangladesh formulated the Fire Prevention and Extinguishing Act in 2003,” the former Fire Service DG said. 

“A thorough mapping will give us insight into the status of the underground utility line, which will give us an idea about what preventive measures can be taken to avoid a deadly accident. Otherwise, no one is safe.” 

Prof Akter Mahmud of the department of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University specifically spelt out the risk of older parts of Dhaka in case of explosions caused by lack of maintenance.

“The streets in that part of Dhaka are narrower, the area is overcrowded, and the utility lines are relatively older than other parts of the town. Besides, the area hosts several chemical warehouses, doubling the risks of a fire or explosion caused by a fault in a utility line,” he said.


  • On Tuesday, at least 17 people were killed, and scores were injured in an explosion inside a building in Siddique Bazar, a crowded marketplace in Old Dhaka. Many people are feared trapped under the rubble of the building. Authorities fear the death toll may rise.

  • Three people were killed, and 30 others were injured when a building in Dhaka’s Science Laboratory area on Mirpur Road partially collapsed after a deadly explosion on Mar 5.

  • A massive fire following an explosion burned down a readymade garments factory in Naratanganj’s Rupganj on Mar 3.

  • At least two people were killed trying to save themselves by jumping from a high-rise building on fire in Dhaka’s Gulshan on Feb 19.

  • A couple on Feb 2 was killed in an explosion inside their kitchen. The explosion and subsequent fire were caused by gas leaking from an LPG cylinder.

  • Three other people were killed in a similar fashion in Dhaka’s Dhamrai on Jan 10.


Although the reasons for Tuesday’s explosion have yet to be ascertained, authorities did confirm that a gas pipeline leakage caused the explosion in the building at Science Laboratory, the same reason that caused another explosion in Narayanganj two years ago.

At least 25 people were killed and dozens injured when the explosion was caused by the leakage in the gas line at a mosque in the district right outside Dhaka on Sept 4, 2020. 

Debashish Barman, former deputy director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said he believes similar leakage could also cause Tuesday’s explosion.

“The building in Siddique Bazar had a basement. Gas could have leaked there and exploded eventually,” he said.
Recently, air-conditioner, or AC, units that lacked the fitness to run were identified as the cause of some explosions and subsequent fires.

There is no official data on how many AC units are being used in Bangladesh. However, Prof Dr Abdul Latif Helali, a retired mechanical engineering teacher at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, estimated that there are at least 800.000 active AC units and more than three million refrigerators in Bangladesh. 

“These AC units and refrigerators require regular maintenance. The bad news is that Bangladesh lacks the adequate number of handymen required to properly maintain these AC units and refrigerators,” he said.

“These household equipment have many parts inside which are flammable. If you employ an inexperienced handyman to run maintenance, they will make mistakes and use below-standard replacement; hence, the probability of accidents increases,” he said. 

Former Fire Service DG Sajjad stressed vigilance in the material used to make a building before it gets the necessary approval from the city authorities. 

JU Prof Akhter emphasised public awareness. 

“No matter how many risk-aversion techniques the authorities deploy, all eventually depend on how aware the people are about the risks,” he said.