Two of the owners of a high-rise commercial building in Dhaka that caught fire this week, killing 26 people and injuring about 70 others, have been arrested, police said.
Assistant police commissioner Abdul Baten told reporters on Sunday that S M H I Faruque and Tasvirul Islam, who is a district leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party in Dhaka, were arrested for negligence and violations of a national building code, which resulted in casualties.
There are other partners who jointly own the building and police were looking for the chief of the construction company that built the FR Tower in the 1990s.
The city’s housing authority said the five upper floors in the building were illegally added without official permission.
The blaze that burned for several hours on Thursday trapped people inside the building, some shouting for help from windows on upper floors and the roof.
Helicopters joined 22 firefighting units in battling the blaze, along with police and armed forces, as some of those trapped in the building waved desperately for help from its windows and roof. Six people leapt to their deaths.
Authorities have ordered an investigation into safety measures at the tower.
Fire officials said the building, on a busy avenue in Dhaka’s Banani commercial district, lacked fire exits and sprinklers, while access to its emergency staircase was padlocked.
‘This is murder’
Foyzur Rahman, head of an investigation team formed by the Ministry of Disaster Management, said testimony was being heard from survivors in an attempt to find the cause of the blaze.
“Their accounts will help us to come up with realistic recommendations to prevent such things in future,” he told reporters on Sunday.
Shahjahan Shaju, additional deputy commissioner of the detective branch, told The Associated Press news agency that Islam was the owner of the top three floors which were built without permission and Faruque was the landowner of the complex.
Their arrests came as a senior minister called the fire an act of murder amid growing public clamour for better building safety standards.
“Definitely this is murder. It is not an accident… Nobody will escape the law,” housing and public works minister Rezaul Karim told reporters on Friday.
The latest blaze came a month after an inferno killed 71 people in an old neighbourhood of the city.
Lax regulations and poor enforcement have often been blamed for large fires in the South Asian nation that have killed hundreds of people in recent years, almost 100 in the past month alone.
In 2012, a fire at a garment factory killed at least 112 people trapped behind its locked gates.
Less than six months later, another building containing garment factories collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.