Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Fire hits Dhaka shopping centre


Smoke billows from the 18th floor of the shopping centre

At least one person has been killed and 17 hurt in a fire in one of the largest shopping centres in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, officials say.

The fire was so intense that the windows of the Bashundhara City centre were reported to have melted. The fire has now been extinguished.

Officials said the fire broke out on the top floors of the 20-storey building which contain offices.

Some reports say the dead man was a security guard, others a fire-fighter.

The BBC's Mark Dummett, who visited the scene of the fire, says the affected office area was mostly empty as Friday is the first day of the Bangladeshi weekend.

Our correspondent says that thousands of shoppers who were on the lower floors of the complex were able to leave the building.

Officials say the fire is now extinguished although parts of the complex are still smouldering.

An air force helicopter rescued the centre's chief security officer from the roof of the blazing complex, fire official Mahbubur Rahman told the AP news agency.

He said the blaze, fanned by summer winds, continued burning for more than four hours.

Vast atrium

Media reports say that the fire-fighters had trouble tackling the flames as they do not have the equipment to go beyond the 13th floor.

Fire at the Bushundhara mall
Officials say the blaze destroyed many unoccupied offices

Reports say the the flames spread downwards from the top floors.

Police Chief Nur Mohammed said it was too early to tell what had caused the fire.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the army, security agencies and all emergency services to join the rescue operation, her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters.

Up to 25,000 people a day visit the capital's first Western-style shopping mall. Friday is one of its busiest days.

Bashundhara City is near the centre of Bangladesh's capital and was built at a cost of more than $100m.

When the mall was completed in 2004, the owners said it was the largest in South Asia and the 12th biggest in the world.

It took six years to build and boasts a gym, a food court and an indoor theme park as well as Bangladesh's first multiplex cinema.

The vast central atrium is lit by a glass dome in the roof 60 metres across.

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