Bangladesh fire: death toll at Dhaka office tower rises to 19

Occupants try to escape blaze by jumping or climbing down 22-storey building

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At least 19 people died and dozens were injured after a huge blaze broke out in a commercial tower in Dhaka on Thursday, the second major fire in Bangladesh's capital in as many months.

Rescue workers said the death toll could rise sharply as firefighters recovered bodies from the complex, where an unknown number of office workers were trapped by intense smoke and flames.

At least six people died after jumping from the 22-storey building, officials said.

Dhaka police chief Asaduzzaman Mia said that at least 73 people were injured and being treated in hospitals across the city.

Firefighters on ladders smashed windows to create escape routes.

More than an hour after the blaze erupted, people on the 13th and 14th floors waved desperately for help amid clouds of black smoke.

Army helicopters dangled ropes that victims grabbed so they could be lifted to safety and crowds below cheered and applauded every time someone was rescued.

Three hospitals reported that six men and women had arrived dead or with fatal injuries after jumping from the office block. They included a Sri Lankan man whose body was taken to the army's Kurmitola Hospital.

Dilkhosh Ahmed at the Banani Clinic said one of the victims had tried to use a television cable to climb down, but slipped and fell from the eighth floor.

A seventh death from burns was recorded at the Dhaka Medical College hospital.

Earlier, helicopters dropped water on the building as 22 firefighting units worked with the army, navy, air force and police to battle the blaze. Hundreds of panicked onlookers crowded the streets.

The fire was almost under control by the late afternoon, Mizanur Rahman, a senior fire service official at the scene, told Reuters.

Shoikot Rahman said he ran to safety after hearing colleagues raise the alarm, narrowly escaping the smoke and flames engulfing the building.

"When I heard a fire broke out in the building, I quickly rushed out," Mr Rahman told AFP.

"Many of my colleagues are still trapped in the office."

A massive blaze in Dhaka's old quarter last month killed at least 70 people and injured 50 others.

Fire service officials said a warehouse of deodorant and granular plastic in one of the five buildings that caught fire fuelled the inferno, which took more than 12 hours to control.

In June 2010, fire in the nearby neighbourhood of Nimtoli in which 123 people were killed.