Death toll from Bangladesh mosque AC explosion rises to 24

The death toll from an explosion of air conditioners in a mosque on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka rose to 24, with three more victims succumbing to their injuries on Sunday, doctors said.

Another 13 people are battling for their lives at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, doctors at the hospital said.

A gas leak in an underground pipeline caused six air conditioners to explode almost simultaneously during Friday evening prayers at the Baitul Salat mosque in the central district of Narayanganj.

Twenty-one victims of the blasts died until 11 pm Saturday. Three more victims died on Sunday during their treatment, doctors said. A seven-year-old boy was among the 24 dead.

This is a very unfortunate incident…May Allah saves the life of 13 people battling for their lives,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a condolence message, while addressing the ninth session of the 11th Parliament on Sunday.

Fire officials suspect accumulated gas from a leaked pipeline triggered a spark and all six air conditioners on the ground floor of the mosque exploded.

“A gas pipeline passes beneath the mosque. We are suspecting that gas leaked from the pipeline and accumulated inside as the windows were closed. The explosion was probably triggered due to sparks when someone tried to switch on or off the ACs or fans,” Narayanganj Fire Service’s Deputy Assistant Director Abdullah Al Arefin said on Saturday.

Investigations underway

Hasina told Parliament that she has issued orders to review the fire safety system of mosques across the country in the wake of the incident.

It will also be verified whether the gas and electricity connections at the Baitul Salat mosque were proper, she said.

According to reports, the mosque committee had recently filed a complaint over leakage of the gas pipeline of the Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited.

The members of the committee said the Titas Gas authorities asked for a Tk50,000 bribe. As the bribe was not paid, the authorities neglected the matter which resulted into this catastrophe, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

Hasina said separate investigations were ordered to ascertain exactly how the explosion occurred and ascertain responsibilities of persons concerned.

Four separate probe committees — by Narayanganj district administration, Fire Service, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd, and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) — have been formed to investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, police have filed a case of negligence against the mosque management committee and the utility authorities.

Witnesses on Friday said they found five to six people coming out of the mosque as soon as the blast occurred. Worshippers, most of them severely burnt, were found lying on the floor, they said.

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