Five workers of a shoe sole factory were killed in a devastating fire in Dhaka's Swarighat area in the early hours of Friday.
The workers, who were sleeping inside the factory, died from suffocation and their bodies were burnt beyond recognition, said Deputy Director of Fire Service and Civil Defense (Dhaka division) Dinmoni Sharma.
The charred bodies were later recovered and sent to the morgue of Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital. Family members of the victims gathered at the morgue to take the bodies home for burial, but the police did not hand over the bodies as the victims had been burnt beyond recognition.
Udayan Bikash Barua, sub-inspector at Chawkbazar Police Station, said the family members tried to identify the bodies. However, their claims were on three bodies only while two other bodies were left unclaimed.
Elias Hossain, assistant commissioner, Chawkbazar zone of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the police will conduct DNA tests to identify the victims after which the bodies will be handed over to their families.
The fire broke out at the three-storied factory, Rumana Industries, at the Kamalbagh area of Swarighat in Old Dhaka at around 1.15 am on Friday, according to Rashed bin Khaled, duty officer, Fire Service and Civil Defense.
He said eight units of fire services brought the fire under control at around 3 am but by then, all five victims had died of suffocation as clouds of smoke blocked their exits. Two other workers were injured in the fire.
The fire service has not been able to identify the source of the fire yet. Dinmoni Sharma said a probe committee will be formed regarding the fire on Sunday.
The firefighters said the factory was built of wood and tin. Besides, there were foam and other flammable materials in the factory which caused the fire to escalate.
Meanwhile, the owner of the factory Rafiqul Islam, also known as Rafiq Haji, has been on the run since the incident, according to the police.
About the deceased
According to information family members provided the police, the victims are Aminul Mia (36), Shamim Mia (30), Monir Hossain (30), Abdur Rahman (40), and Kamrul Islam (23).
Kamrul Islam had been working as the manager of the factory for nearly two years, said his cousin Nurul Islam. Kamrul, along with the other four workers, used to spend the night on the first floor of the factory.
The victims' family members said the workers used to get around Tk20,000 per month, with overtime payment added, and as such they could not afford to have their own places to stay. So they found the factory as a convenient place for them to reside in.
Ali Hossain, who works in an adjacent factory, lost his relative Monir in the fire. He said at least 50 workers were employed in the factory and they worked in two shifts. The deceased workers had their duties in the day shift and slept in the factory at night.
"The night shift workers managed to get out in time when the fire broke out but the workers who were sleeping were not as lucky," Ali added.
Monir, who hailed from Chandpur, had been working in the factory for over a decade. His teenage son Nahid Hasan, who came to the morgue to identify his body, said he had talked to his father on Thursday night.
"Father said he would be visiting us in the village on Saturday but now…" Nahid broke into tears.
Earlier on 8 July, at least 52 people died in a massive fire at Hashem Foods and Beverage factory in Narayanganj. Before that on 22 April, four people were killed and 25 injured as a fire broke out at a chemical warehouse in a residential building at Armanitola in Old Dhaka.