DHAKA, Bangladesh — A fire broke out on Thursday in a large office tower in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killing at least 19 people and injuring several dozen others, officials said.
Videos circulating on social media showed large flames burning through the 24-story building, F.R. Tower. On the ground, witnesses said several people had fallen while trying to descend using cables along the periphery of the building.
Officer Khurshid Anwar of the Bangladesh Fire Service said that 21 firefighting units had been dispatched to douse the blaze, which was brought under control late Thursday afternoon. Of the 19 people who died, he said, 13 were found inside the building in the evening. Among the dead was a Sri Lankan citizen.
At least 70 others were injured, and he warned that the death toll could increase. The cause of the fire was still unknown as of Thursday evening.
Mamunur Rashid Mumun, an executive at a multinational company on the 10th floor, was preparing for afternoon prayers around 12:45 p.m. when he received a call informing him that a fire had broken out a few floors below.
As some of his colleagues rushed for a staircase, Mr. Mumun, 61, who works for Scanwell Logistics Bangladesh, quickly shut down nearby computers.
By the time he moved toward the exit, smoke had darkened the office, making it difficult to breathe, he said. He then broke a window and used internet and telephone cables to descend to the sixth floor, where he re-entered through another window and managed to escape.
“I was very lucky,” he said, adding that two of his colleagues were feared dead and several were unaccounted for.
As the fire climbed higher on Thursday afternoon, more employees broke the building’s blue-colored glass and screamed for help.
From the streets below, thousands of people had gathered in Banani, a commercial area of Dhaka, where 70 people were killed in another fire in February that tore through a crowded neighborhood in the city, home to around 20 million people.
From his vantage point on the ground, Shafique Ali Ajam, who works next to F.R. Tower, said at least eight people had tried to climb down near the eighth and ninth floors.
Some of them fell mid-attempt, he said.