The street along the gutted building was strewn with charred vehicles, pieces of still-burning metal and plastics and hundreds of cans of body deodorant.

Hundreds of distraught relatives thronged the DMCH to seek missing relatives while many waited outside the morgue to receive the corpses while doctors said some of the bodies were burnt beyond identification.

About 200 firefighters had battled for more than five hours to contain the blaze in narrow lanes snaking between tightly-packed buildings in an area, authorities say, is a home to more than three million people.

Outside the gutted store, the road was strewn with charred vehicles, pieces of still-burning metal and plastics and hundreds of cans of body deodorant. The Wednesday night’s fire appeared to be the repetition of a deadly 2010 blaze in a nearby neighbourhood that had killed over 120 people while chemical warehouses emerged as the culprit in both the cases.

In June 2010, more than 120 people were burnt to death and 50 others injured in an identical manner at Nimtoli, a neighbourhood near the Chwakbazar area, of the crowded Old Dhaka and it was a plastic factory which responsible for quick spread of fire.

The incident, at that time, sparked a public outcry, demanding the relocation of chemical warehouses and stores packed with combustible materials from the area and the authorities listed 800 such warehouses in the neighourhood for their transfer to Keraniganj area on the outskirts of the capital.

The last night’s incident clearly suggests that the measure were not enough to clean the area where people use their houses for business purposes of such ignitable items for years.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the government would lend its support to autonomous City Corporation to relocate the warehouses, while Road Transport Minister and ruling Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said stern steps awaited the people responsible for the tragedy.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mourned the casualties and ordered the best possible treatment for the wounded people while state-run facilities were asked to provide free of cost services to heal the injured.

According to the fire service, the fire started around 10.45 pm at a five -storey building and it spread to four nearby buildings quickly, one of which was badly damaged.

The ground floor of the building is rented out to shops and second floor is used as a warehouse for toiletries and various plastic products. The top two floors are residential units.

Adjacent to the building there are some restaurants which kept their cooking gas cylinders on the road, which helped spread the deadly fire with intensified wraths.

Residents in the area suspected the fire broke out when a gas cylinder exploded at a restaurant, but the fire virtually spread from the second floor of building and ripped through the area quickly, while there were sounds of several small explosions from inside.

The fire first spread to two neighbouring buildings and then spread across the narrow lane to two other buildings in the crowded area, said Abdur Rahman, who was among hundreds of people rushed to the sport from nearby areas to see the incident.