March 13, 2009 / 12:25 PM / in 10 years

Bangladesh shopping mall fire kills at least seven

(Updates death toll)

By Ruma Paul and Anis Ahmed

DHAKA, March 13 (Reuters) - A fire engulfed the top floors of Bangladesh’s largest shopping mall on Friday, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens, police said, raising questions about the efficiency of safety procedures.

Fire fighters, police and other security forces took almost 10 hours to put out the blaze at the 21-storey Basundhara City Complex in Dhaka but found no one trapped inside.

Thick smoke rose over the building and flames could be seen on the upper floors, a witness said. Army helicopters rescued people from the roof of the building as members of the Rapid Action Battalion elite force and the army helped stop the blaze.

"The fire broke out on the top floor and soon engulfed the other floors," a fire brigade official said. Television pictures showed the blaze spreading through five or six upper floors.

The inferno has raised questions about the efficiency of fire fighters and whether the high-rise buildings followed required safety measures, said Tanzim Ahmed Sohel Taj, state minister for home affairs.

"We will look at these issues quickly after the current disaster has been tackled," the minister told reporters outside the Basundhara complex.

All the dead were Basundhara employees, one from its fire fighting unit and six were security guards, police told reporters.

"The firefighter died in a hospital where he was admitted with serious burn injuries," a police officer said.

Three of the guards were found dead in the lifts and three others were lying on the floors. Some of the bodies were badly charred, one rescuer said, adding that the death toll may go up.

At least 30 injured were treated at hospitals, doctors and witnesses said.

A Basundhara official said the exact death toll and the extent of damage would not be known until the debris was cleared.

The cause of the fire was not yet known.

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