Police in Bangladesh’s capital arrested two of the owners of a commercial complex that caught fire last week, killing 26 people and injuring about 70, an official said.
Deputy police commissioner Shahjahan Shaju said early on Sunday that they arrested FR Tower’s owners Tasvir-ul-Islam and SMHI Faruque in Dhaka after police charged them with negligence and violations of a building code that resulted in casualties. In cases where deaths occur as a result of negligence, defendants also usually face culpable homicide charges.
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.
Authorities say the complex on a busy avenue in Dhaka’s Banani commercial district had no fire-protected staircases and some top floors of the 22-story building were illegally constructed.
Shahju said Islam, who is the chief executive of the Quasem Drycells Ltd, was the owner of the top three floors that were constructed without permission and Faruque was the land owner of the complex. There were other partners who jointly own the building and police were looking for the chief of the construction company that built the complex.
Islam, a district level leader, is tied to the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party of the former prime minister, Khaleda Zia.
Officials said earlier that the owners of the complex sought permission from the Capital Development Authority in 1996 to construct an 18-story complex but later raised it illegally. Fire officials said the complex did not have an adequate fire protection and detection system in place despite repeated warnings during inspections.
The fire was the latest in a country where crowding, flouted building regulations and safety norms have made deadly blazes common.
The country has improved safety in its main export-earning garment sector after a 2013 collapse of a complex housing five factories near Dhaka. Last month, a fire in the oldest part of Dhaka, a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses, left at least 67 people dead.
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.