First blast took place at Wahed Mansion

The first explosion that led to Wednesday’s devastating fire in Chawkbazar area might have took place at Haji Wahed Mansion, suggested footage of at least two separate CCTVs installed nearby.

Hundreds of perfume containers started raining down on the people stuck on the roads as the fire was racing through other buildings. Repeated explosions occurred for the next few minutes, the clips show.

The Daily Star has learned that the first floor of the building housed two storerooms — one for perfume cans and another for electric equipment.

The second floor housed a storeroom of perfumes along with three residential flats while combustible and flammable substances were found in the basement.

The CCTV clips appear to contradict the claims of the local chemical traders and landlords that the fire originated due to explosions of a cylinder of a private car or a pick-up van.  They also seem to run counter to what the industries minister and Dhaka South City Corporation mayor claimed.

In the first footage near Churihatta Jame Mosque shows that a black private car was stuck at the intersection adjacent to the mosque while another white car was coming slowly from the opposite direction when the first explosion took place at 10:32pm.

Within moments, a huge number of perfume cans started flying and pouring down on the roads with people seen running to escape the raging blaze.

The footage also showed that no blast took place in the cars.

The 30-minute footage recorded from 10:22pm to 10:52pm has no sound.

In the second footage, which looked out into the kitchen of Rajmahal restaurant in Old Dhaka’s Churihatta, the restaurant employees were seen cooking and working around 10:30pm.

Just as the clock struck 10:32pm, a massive explosion occurred that caused some parts of the Haji Wahed Mansion’s wall to fall on the road over vehicles and people.

A fire engulfed the area within seconds.

Bricks and perfume cans from Wahed Mansion were pouring on the road as the blaze kept growing. Some people who were caught in the forage were seen running for their lives while some others took shelter in adjacent shops. The front portion of the restaurant was also damaged.

At least 67 people died in the fire and many others were injured.

Some local landlords and traders who claimed to have witnessed the raging fire insisted that the blast of a cylinder ignited the flames.

However, they gave varied versions.

Some “witnesses” said explosion of a pick-up’s CNG cylinder caused the fire while some others claimed that the blast of an LPG cylinder at a restaurant next to Wahed Mansion triggered the fire.

According to another version, the blast of a car’s CNG cylinder sparked the blaze around 10:30pm.

Talking to The Daily Star on Friday, Shamsul Alam, chief inspector at Department of Explosives, said that they have so far not found any sign of a cylinder blast.

They didn’t find any evidence of cylinder explosions in the wreckage, he said.

A fire service official said when an LPG cylinder is exploded in a residential building, its doors and windows get shattered, part of walls collapse, and even bodies of residents are torn apart if they stay closer.

“Such an explosion of a cylinder leaves marks of splinters on the walls. But nothing like that happened in the two restaurants,” he said preferring anonymity for the sake of the investigation.

Morgue sources at Dhaka Medical College said none of the bodies had marks of splinter injury on them.

In the last three days, people involved in the chemical business and homeowners told many reporters not to cite warehouses as the probable cause of the fire and requested them to report that the blast of a gas cylinder triggered the blaze.

However, many locals said the businessmen were trying to divert the attention from the chemicals, fearing an initiative might be taken to relocate the warehouses from the area.

Source: The Daily Star

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