Building fire kills 16, injures at least 50 in Azerbaijan

Fire engulfing an apartment building in Baku. Photo: Trend

Emergency services, including helicopters scrambled Tuesday to contain a massive fire engulfing an apartment building in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.

The country’s ministry of health confirmed 16 people died with at least 50 others injured to ‘varying degrees’, local media reported.

The dead included mostly women and children who were not able to escape the 16-storey building, not far from the city center. At least 5 of those killed have not been identified yet.

The former soviet republic’s president Ilham Aliyev assumed ‘personal control’ of the investigation into the cause of deadly fire and a state commission has been set up to deal with the incident, Trend reported.

Authorities blamed the fire-prone exteriors as it was the second case of a residential building bursting into flames.

The quick spread of flames was due to ‘low-quality’ flammable cladding used, said the prosecutor general at the scene.

The cladding panels containing polyurethane reportedly produced toxic gas, resulting in the death of those trapped inside the building.

Local news sites cited ‘preliminary information of investigators’, saying a short circuit might have caused the fire although ‘nothing is excluded at the current stage’.

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Police arrested general manager of a local construction company, Global Construction, to assist them with their inquires on ‘the use of non-compliant material’ on the facade of the building, said the interior ministry.

Many Stalin-era buildings have long given way to shiny new skyscrapers in the capital city while some old buildings only got facelift and add-ons to “look modern”.