Image: Flames rise out of the burning Bashundhara City mall
Pavel Rahman  /  AP
Authorities say the blaze at the 22-story Bashundhara City mall in Dhaka, Bangladesh, started on the 18th floor.
updated 3/13/2009 3:29:13 PM ET 2009-03-13T19:29:13

A helicopter plucked survivors from the roof of Bangladesh’s biggest shopping mall Friday as a fire raced through the upper levels of the high-rise complex, killing at least seven people and injuring 50 others.

Huge flames shot into the air amid billowing smoke as hundreds of panicked people, many carrying shopping bags, fled Dhaka’s 22-story Bashundhara City mall, which has more than 2,000 stores and cafes.

A security guard died at a hospital hours after the blaze broke out on the 18th floor, fire official Selina Chowdhury said.

Firefighters recovered three more bodies, all of them men, from an elevator late Friday after the fire was brought under control, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police official Mahbubur Rahman.

Firefighter Sheikh Mohammad Shahjalal said that they recovered another three bodies later, but would not provide details.

He said they would continue search operations at the scene overnight.

Fifteen fire trucks responded, but the flames still spread quickly. Troops and police joined firefighters in the rescue work, said Abul Kalam Azad, spokesman for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

An air force helicopter rescued three people, including the mall’s chief security officer, from the roof, Rahman said.

Rahman said the blaze was fanned by summer winds. Firefighters took nearly seven hours to douse the flames, he said.

It was unclear how many people were inside the mall when the fire started.

Doctors at Shamarita Hospital said 17 people were being treated there for smoke inhalation. Other hospitals reported receiving at least 33 people suffering from smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. The Ministry of Home Affairs ordered a three-member committee to investigate.

The floor where it began has the offices of the mall’s owner, the Bashundhara company, which would normally be closed Friday, part of the weekend in Bangladesh. The mall opened in 2004.

More on: Bangladesh

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