Updated March 7, 2023 at 8:10 PM ET

MUMBAI, India — It felt like an earthquake. That's what shopkeeper Safayet Hossain told local media after an explosion blew out the first two floors of a multistory commercial building Tuesday in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka.

The blast was near his shop in the city's old quarter. He said he saw 20 to 25 people lying in the road in front of the damaged building.

"They were crying for help. 'Save us, save us,'" he said. Footage from the scene shows firefighters carrying burn victims out of the wreckage on stretchers.

At least 17 people were killed, and more than 100 were injured. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise.

The blast hit just before 5 p.m. local time, the end of the work day, in a building that houses a plumbing supply shop and other businesses in a busy commercial district. Electricity was severed for a city block in either direction, and police cordoned off streets.

Officials say they're investigating the cause of the blast, and that a bomb squad is on the scene. One official told reporters at a nearby hospital that it appeared to be an accident. In the past 48 hours, there have been two other blasts blamed on gas leaks in the city.

Fire and building safety can often be shoddy in Bangladesh. It was home to one of the world's deadliest industrial disasters, the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed more than 1,100 people. Hundreds die in fires in Dhaka alone each year.

Earlier this week, a massive fire at a cluster of Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh left some 12,000 homeless, according to the United Nations.

Rescuers at Tuesday's blast site in Dhaka reportedly had to pause their work and evacuate the wreckage at one point, when someone spotted a crack in a support wall.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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