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Fire in centuries-old shopping district kills 70 in Bangladesh

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Image: The scene of a fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Flames and smoke rise from a building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. -
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DHAKA, Bangladesh — A devastating fire raced through densely packed buildings in a centuries-old shopping district in Bangladesh's capital, killing at least 70 people, officials said Thursday.

Dhaka's Chawkbazar area is crammed with buildings separated by narrow alleys, with residences commonly above shops, restaurants or warehouses on the ground floors.

The blaze started late Wednesday night in one building but quickly spread to others, authorities said.

"Many of the recovered bodies are beyond recognition," said Mahfuz Riben, a control room official in Dhaka.

Some reports suggested many of the dead were pedestrians, shoppers or diners who died quickly as several gas cylinders exploded, and flames engulfed the nearby buildings very quickly.

Such tragedies are shockingly common in Bangladesh, where fires, floods, ferry sinkings and other disasters regularly claim dozens of lives or more.