At least 15 people have been reported killed and more than a hundred injured in Bangladesh’s capital after an explosion inside an office building in a bustling commercial district, police said.
The cause of the blast on Tuesday was not immediately known but fatal building fires and explosions are common in Bangladesh, where safety enforcement is often lax.
The blast shook the fourth and fifth floors of a seven-storey building in Gulistan, a major hub for wholesale goods in the capital, Dhaka, shortly before 5 pm local time (1100 GMT).
Meanwhile, more than 100 people were treated for head wounds, fractures and other injuries at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, hospital director Nazmul Islam told AFP news agency.
“At least 15 people have died, including two women,” he said, adding that hundreds of doctors and nurses had been mobilised to treat the injured.
No substantial fire broke out in the building, which housed dozens of warehouses, shops selling bathroom fittings and other commercial spaces.
More than 150 firefighters were at the site to assist in rescue efforts, a fire services spokesperson said.
“Our officers are investigating whether it was an act of sabotage or an accident,” police commissioner Khandaker Golam Faruq told reporters.
A bus driver caught in the blast said 30 of his passengers were injured when his vehicle passed the building as the blast hit.
“I heard a loud explosion and then I was hit in the head by a flying object,” he told reporters.
A middle-aged man in a blood-soaked shirt told reporters he had been injured in the blast, which shattered windows and damaged a wall of the building.
“There were people lying on the floor. I escaped by climbing out from the window,” he said.
And another witness said people were trapped in the second, fourth and fifth floors of the building when firefighters arrived and rushed them to hospital.
Explosions and fires due to gas cylinders, faulty air conditioners and bad electrical wiring are frequent in Bangladeshi buildings and factories.