The blast, which fire service officials suspect was caused by a leak from a gas pipeline, occurred on Friday night at a mosque in Narayanganj district, just outside the capital Dhaka.
At least 37 people were rushed to Dhaka’s specialist burn and plastic-surgery hospital, most of them with severe burns, doctors said.
Seventeen people, including a child, died after they sustained burn injuries, said Samanta Lal Sen, coordinator of the burn unit. The death toll could rise further as many of them were in critical condition, he said.
“I saw smoke was belching out of the mosque after the sudden explosion with a big bang and people were screaming. Some were rolling on the street as they tried to put out the flames on their bodies,” said local resident Mohammad Ratan.
Fire officials said gas that accumulated from a leak in a pipeline running underneath the mosque likely triggered the explosion.
“We primarily suspect that gas leaked from the pipeline and accumulated inside since the windows were closed. The explosion was probably triggered due to sparks when the air conditioners were turned on,” said Abdullah Al Arefin, a senior fire service official.
Authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.
Lax regulations and poor enforcement are often blamed for domestic and industrial fires in Bangladesh.
In February last year, an inferno in a centuries-old neighborhood of Dhaka killed 71 people. A month later, 25 people were killed when fire broke out in a 22-storey commercial building in an upscale area of the capital. (Int’l News Desk)