A fire in Dhaka yesterday killed three people and severely disrupted the Internet in Bangladesh.
The fire broke out at 16:58 October 26, on the 13th floor of the 14-story Khawaja Tower in the Mohakali district of the Bangladesh capital. The Dhaka fire department arrived at 17:07, and had the blaze under control by 19:30. They reported 10 injuries and three deaths.
The building housed several Internet gateways, exchanges, and data centers. Multiple International Internet Gateways (IIGs) and data centers are reported to have been destroyed by the fire. The fire service criticized the lack of fire precautions within the building.
Around 40 percent of Bangladesh’s 12 million broadband Internet users experienced outages during the fire, while around 20 percent of the country’s 120 million mobile Internet had trouble with data and voice services, according to the Dhaka Tribune
“Initial information is that Level 3, Max Hub, We Networks, Earthnet, and Windstream IIG were burnt,” Emdadul Haque, President of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) told the United News of Bangladesh, “As a result, we have already lost 70-80 percent of our bandwidth. The service of 550-600 ISP organizations across the country is at the stage of closure.”
He said: “It will take at least a week to restore Internet speed to normal due to the amount of damage caused by the Khawaja Tower fire incident. And if the devices burn, it may take longer.”
Mobile services were also affected. The Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh said yesterday that it was working to relocate connections to a different hub: “We hope to improve the situation soon. We would appreciate everyone to bear with this inconvenience caused due to this fire incident.”
The Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence reported on Facebook that 12 units attended the fire at the building, which stands on Bir Uttam AK Khandaker Road. Teams from the army, navy, air force, police, and other agencies also attended, and the fire was completely extinguished by 08:15 this morning.
People on the 12th floor reportedly broke windows, and moved up to the roof. Ten people were rescued by the Fire Service.
Police said that the fire killed three people, named as Rafiqul Islam, 63, Aklima Rahman, 33, and Hasna Hena, 27. Islam worked as a project coordinator at Saif Powertec Ltd, on the 13th floor of the building. Rahman and Hena both are reported to have worked at an Internet service provider on the ninth floor.
The cause of the fire has not yet been announced, but Fire Service and Civil Defence chief Brigadier General Md Main Uddin told the Dhaka Tribune: “There was no [fire] safety plan at Khawaja Tower in Mohakhali. We found some fire extinguishers on different floors, and they were working. But the fire spread due to the presence of a large amount of flammable materials.”
In the coming days, law enforcement will need to ascertain the cause of the fire, but Haque urged the authorities to allow Internet and data center providers back into the site quickly to help restore services: “We would urge law enforcement to allow us to enter the building at the earliest or to allow the transfer of goods if the building is at risk.”