A gas pipeline explosion near a mosque in Bangladesh has killed 16 people and injured dozens with critical burns as worshippers were about to end their prayers, officials said on Saturday.
The explosion, which fire service officials suspect was caused by leakage from the pipeline, occurred on Friday night at a mosque in Narayanganj district, just outside the capital, Dhaka.
Dozens were rushed to Dhaka’s state-run specialised burn and plastic-surgery hospital, most of them with severe burns.
By Saturday afternoon, 16 people, including a seven-year-old boy, had succumbed to their injuries.
Doctors at a burns unit of a state-run hospital were treating at least 37 people with burns on up to 90 percent of their bodies, said Samanta Lal Sen, a coordinator of the unit.
Fire officials said gas that accumulated in the mosque after pipeline leaks likely triggered the blasts.
“We primarily suspect that gas leaked from the pipeline and accumulated inside the mosque since the windows were shut. When the air conditioners was turned on, due to sparks the gas could have exploded,” said Abdullah Al Arefin, a senior fire service official.
Local TV stations reported that because of the impact of the blast, at least six air conditioners also exploded inside the mosque.
Authorities have launched an investigation into the blast.
In Bangladesh, safety regulations are often flouted in construction. Hundreds are killed each year in fires in the nation of 168 million people.
Faulty installation of gas lines are often reported by Bangladeshi media, while unplanned road-digging work often leads to disasters in the country which is seeking rapid industrial expansion and economic development.
In February last year, an inferno in Dhaka’s old quarters killed 78 people. One month later, 25 people were killed when a blaze engulfed an office building in the city.