17 people were killed and dozens were injured after a gas pipeline reportedly exploded at a mosque in Bangladesh, officials said on Saturday.
“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.
The explosion, which fire service officials suspect was caused by leakage from a pipeline, occurred on Friday night at a mosque in Narayanganj district just outside the capital, Dhaka.
“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.
The 12 who died were among 37 taken to a specialist burns hospital in Dhaka in critical condition, said hospital spokesman Samanta Lal Sen.
He added that all had suffered 70 to 80 percent burns.
In Bangladesh, safety regulations are often flouted in construction. Hundreds are killed each year in fires in the nation of 168 million people.