At least 10,000 people were left homeless after a huge blaze destroyed most of a slum area of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.
The fire swept through the crowded slum of Mirpur and destroyed thousands of homes, most of them poorly constructed from rudimentary materials.
Officials said that the fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday and left around 2,000 mostly tin shacks in smouldering ruins. The ultimate number of people without homes could rise as high 50,000.
“I could not salvage a single thing. I don’t know what I will do,” 58-year-old Abdul Hamid, who ran a tea stall inside the slum told the AFP news agency.
Authorities eventually got the blaze under control and no one was killed, although several people had minor injuries, firefighters said.
Many residents – largely low-income garment factory workers – were not in the slum as they had left their homes to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday with their families.
“Otherwise, the damage would have been bigger,” police chief Golam Rabbani said.
Around 10,000 people have taken refuge in temporary shelters at nearby schools closed for the week-long holiday..
“We are providing them with food, water, mobile toilets, and electricity supply,” a city official, Shafiul Azam, said, adding that authorities were trying to find permanent accommodation.
Some families erected tarpaulins to shelter them from bouts of rain during the monsoon season, but the wet conditions have turned the fields muddy.
Fires are frequent in Dhaka, with many blaming poorly enforced safety measures. At least 100 people have been killed so far this year in fires across the densely populated city.
Some residents of Mirpur said they suspect the fire may have originated from a short circuit, or from a stove.
Shathi Akther said she rushed out from her home with two children when she saw the flames, the Dhaka Tribue reported.
Her husband, Mohammed Shohag, a small trader, helped in getting them out, but himself was now missing.
Saidur Rahman, a rickshaw puller, said he managed to escape the blaze. He lived with 10 other family members in the slum.
“Everyone was in the same situation; nobody was able to come out with anything. We are poor people. I do not know what to do, or where to go,” he added.
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