Fire flame in Dhakaimage rights
Reuters

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The flame broke out in a residential building that also served as a chemical storehouse

A fast-moving fire killed at least 70 when it swept through a historic district in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

Wednesday broke out in a multi-storey residential building, the fire in which combustible chemicals were stored on one of the floors.

The fire quickly spread to nearby buildings in the area.

The centuries-old Chawkbazar part of Dhaka has distinctive, very narrow streets and residential buildings just inches from each other.

The fire broke out at 23:40 local time on Wednesday (17:40 GMT), police said in Bangladesh.

It started in a chemical store on the ground floor of the building and then raced through three other buildings, General Director of the Fire Department and Civil Defense, General Ali Ahmed Khan, told BBC Bengali.

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Reuters

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Volunteers who have recovered a body from a burnt warehouse

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AFP

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The scene of the fire

The firefighters had difficulty clearing the fire, obstructed by the narrow streets and the lack of water sources.

According to police chief Javeb Patowary, the fire was fueled by pick-up station wagons in the area where gas bottles were stored.

The victims included people outside the building, some guests in a restaurant, and members of a bridal party, said Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ibrahim Khan told AFP.

"A danger to the people"

By Rakib Hasnet, BBC Bengali

Chawkbazar is one of the most important areas in Old Dhaka, a historic district founded about 300 years ago during the Mughal dynasty.

It is a hub for chemical companies and local perfume factories, even though the authorities banned the chemical goods business following a fire in 2010.

The area is surrounded by narrow streets packed with rickshaws, small cars and people. Even passenger buses can not go on these roads.

Hundreds of electrical, telephone and Internet cables hang on the narrow streets, posing a threat to the people of Chawkbazar.

The main danger, however, is that residential buildings are used for commercial purposes, with ground floors serving as storage for chemical and gaseous cylinders.

Reportedly, many people were trapped in the buildings and could not escape the flames.

A man whose shop was destroyed in the fire said he had barely escaped the flame when he went to a pharmacy.

"When I was in the pharmacy, I heard a big bang," Haji Abdul Kader told AFP.

"I turned around and saw the whole street on fire, flames were everywhere … I was burned and ran to the hospital."

Bangladesh has a continuing problem with non-compliance with safety regulations.

In 2013, more than 1,100 people died and thousands were injured when a building that collapsed clothing factories called Rana Plaza in Dhaka collapsed.

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