The death toll in the boiler-explosion-triggered fire at a packaging factory near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka has risen to 23 as rescuers were still trying to douse the flames, officials said Saturday.
The morning explosion at Tampaco Foils factory caused the collapse of the building, said Mohammad Rafiquzzaman of the Fire Service and Civil Defence Department.
The firefighters have managed to bring the fire under control, but they will need a few more hours to put it out completely in order to begin to search inside the collapsed building, SM Alam, chief administrator of the district, told dpa by phone.
He added that rescuers pulled 23 bodies from inside the debris. Local media, however, put the death toll as high as 26.
A doctor at a local hospital said 17 bodies had been brought to Tongi General Hospital. The survivors being treated at the hospital had suffered multiple injuries including burns, the doctor surnamed Parvej told reporters.
Twenty-two workers who suffered injuries were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Three of them died at the hospital, physician Partha Sarkar Pal said.
Three more people died after they were taken to a private hospital.
Factory owner Syed Mokbul Hossain told a local newspaper that he had no knowledge about whether the boiler was faulty or it had been inspected on time.
Hossain, also a former lawmaker in the Bangladeshi parliament, informed Prothom Alo newspaper that 75 people were supposed to be working inside the factory when the accident occurred.
Television footage showed the firefighters still trying to get into the collapsed four-storey building. Black smoke filled the area around it.
Six hours after the explosion, firefighters were still fighting to bring the flames under control, Rafiquzzaman said. He said that the chemicals piled up in the factory for production had caused the fire to spread more easily.
The Tampaco Foils factory produces packaging for tobacco and other consumer products. British American Tobacco and Nestle are among its clients, as posted on the website of the company.
SM Alam said the authorities had launched an investigation into the incident, and that the committee given the task had been told to report in seven days.
Fatalities in Bangladeshi factories, which mostly produce clothing, packaging and textiles, are common due to lax implementation of regulations.
A fire at Tazreen Fashion factory in late 2012 killed at least 112 workers.
More than 1,100 people were killed and 2,500 injured after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building which housed five garment factories in 2013.