Questions mount about building safety in Bangladesh capital after inferno kills at least 25 people

On Friday morning, after yet another deadly inferno in Bangladesh’s capital, firefighters searched the charred shell of the tower for bodies as questions mounted about the stock of unsafe buildings in the world’s most densely populated city.

Police at the site said 25 bodies had been recovered and more than 70 were receiving treatment. It was not immediately clear if more were missing. “We’ve identified all of the bodies and 24 have been handed over to their families,” said Mostaq Ahmed, an officer with the Dhaka police.


Firefighters continued to search the 22-storey FR Tower for bodies
Firefighters continued to search the 22-storey FR Tower for bodies © Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

The fast-growing Bangladeshi megacity of more than 17 million people is a cocktail of disaster risks. Much of its development is unplanned and in zones vulnerable to earthquakes. Hundreds of buildings in its 17th-century old quarter are unreinforced, have ageing wiring and water supplies, and serve as illegal warehouses for chemicals. A 2015 study of the particularly crowded ward 29 found half its streets were too narrow for fire engines to navigate.


While building codes have improved, their enforcement remains hampered by a poorly staffed and inadequately trained inspectorate.

“The buildings here don’t have any sort of integrated firefighting system,” Zulfiker Rahman, a director of the city’s fire department, said on Friday outside the FT Tower.

“Every building around here you can see, not a single one is equipped with a proper system to minimise fire hazard. And the builders just don’t care. Only when fatal accidents like this happen, they make some pretentious moves and then again set the issue aside.”