Bangladesh: 35 people killed, 450 injured in devastating fire at chemical depot

Dhaka, Bangladesh (Agencies): At least 35 people were killed and more than 450 injured in a devastating fire and subsequent explosions at a chemical container depot in Bangladesh’s southern port city of Chattogram, according to officials. Firefighters were still working to bring the fire under control on Sunday.

“So far 35 dead bodies reached the morgue here,” a police officer stationed at the state-run Chattagram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Istakul Islam, chief of Health and Service Department at Red Crescent Youth Chittagong, said, “Over 450 people have been injured in this incident. The death count could be more.”

The Explosives Department of Chattogram was not informed and no license was taken to store Hydrogen Peroxide at BM Container Depot where an explosion followed by fire Saturday night, according to the Daily Star.

Fire Service officials in Chattogram said they were not informed of the chemical stored in the depot. Had they informed it, they would take precautionary measures to put out the blaze.

According to police officer Nurul Alam, posted at Chittagong Medical College Hospital’s police outpost, preliminary probe has indicated that the fire broke out due to chemical reaction.

The fire at the a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, BM Container Depot in Sitakunda upazila of Chattogram,  believed to have caused massive explosion after coming in contact with hydrogen peroxide, an oxidising agent which is not flammable but can make fire more intense.

Muzibur Rahman, owner of the BM Depot claimed that have necessary approval from explosive department.

He said the explosion was caused by overheating.

“We have a record of 15 deaths till now and 91 injured are still being treated in the hospital. Of them, the condition of some is very critical. We have already shifted two to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU),” Brigadier General Md. . Shamim Ahsan, Director of the Chattogram Medical College Hospital, told Anadolu Agency earlier. 

The explosion was so large it was heard several kilometres away and shattered the windows of nearby buildings. One local shopkeeper told reporters that a piece of debris had flown half a kilometre and landed in his pond. He described seeing “fireballs falling like rain” after the explosion.

Among those killed, three are reportedly members of the firefighting units who rushed to the scene and took part in the rescue operations.

Six firefighters have died and two remain missing, said the media cell of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense.

Dozens of firefighters and police officers were also reportedly injured during rescue operations.

Director of the BM Container Depot, Mujibur Rahman, said the fire’s cause was still unknown.

He added the facility employs about 600 people.

The fire erupted at around 11.00 pm local time (1700GMT) on Saturday in the city’s Sitakunda area.

Eyewitnesses and rescue workers said it broke out in one container and rapidly spread to others, causing some to explode in the depot that contains more than 1,000 containers.

Many senior officials, including the city’s mayor, have visited the site and vowed to uncover what caused the fire.

The authorities said, that the deadly conflagration had caused huge economic losses however as it gutted many containers laden with chemicals and other materials in the South Asian nation’s main exporting sector of the readymade garments industry.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her condolences over the tragic incident and assured compensation to the families of the dead. She asked all concerned authorities to provide due treatment to the injured at the highest priority.

Report by The Muslim News

[Map of Bangladesh from CIA Fact Book/Public Domain]

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