IBTimes UK

Nearly 23 people died and 70 were injured after a huge fire broke out in a food and cigarette packaging factory outside Dhaka on Saturday, police and witnesses said.

"The fire broke out in the morning just when work was about to start," Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, a fire official told Reuters.

He said the firemen struggled to control the blaze in the factory which was a four-storey building situated in the industrial zone of Tongi, 20 km (12 miles) north of Dhaka.

"The fire is still not under control," police inspector Sirajul Islam told AFP.

Almost 100 people were working there in the building when the accident took place following an explosion in the boiler room.

The police said many workers may still be trapped inside the building. The injured people, who were rescued from the building, were taken immediately to the nearby hospital for treatment.

"Most of them had burn injuries. We sent the critically injured victims to the hospitals in Dhaka," Parvez Mia, a doctor at the Tongi state-run hospital, said.

Authorities said that the exact cause of the fire was not known immediately.

"What we have heard is that there were chemicals stored on the ground floor. As a result, the fire took no time to spread," Islam said.

The readymade garments industry plays a significant role in the economy of Bangladesh. During the fiscal year that ended in June, the industry earned $28 billion in exports. Bangladesh is the world's second-biggest apparel exporter after China.

However, weak fire protection systems are common in factories in Bangladesh. In 2013, more than 1,100 workers died in a building collapse that ranks as the country's worst industrial disaster.