Sunday, June 05, 2022
DHAKA: A massive fire swept through an inland container depot in southeastern Bangladesh, killing at least 32 people and injuring more than 150, officials said on Sunday, the latest incident highlighting the country's poor industrial safety track record.
The fire broke out at a container facility on Saturday night at Sitakunda, 40 km (25 miles) from the port city of Chittagong, triggering a huge blast and multiple container explosions subsequently at the site, officials said.
Firefighters were still scrambling to put out the fire on Sunday noon as chemical filled containers were still exploding, said fire service officials.
The explosion shook the neighbourhood and shattered glasses of windows of nearby buildings, local residents said.
The death toll could rise as some of the injured are in critical condition, said Chittagong civil surgeon Mohammed Elias Hossain. The injured included firefighters and policemen, he said.
He said all doctors in the district were called in to help tackle the situation while social media was flooded with appeals for emergency blood donations.
Five firefighters also died and at least 50 others, including 10 policemen, were injured, he added.
Hundreds of distraught relatives thronged the Chittagong Medical College and Hospital to seek missing relatives, witnesses said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze. Fire service officials said they suspect it may have originated from a container of hydrogen peroxide and spread quickly to other containers.
Chemical filled containers are still exploding, said Newton Das, a fire service official. Some contain hydrogen peroxide, while others contain sulphur, he said.
"It's really getting harder as toxic fumes engulfed the area," he said.
Bangladesh has prospered over the past decade to become the world's second-biggest exporter of garments, but the infrastructure and institutional preparedness for industrial safety there is still nascent, the International Labour Organisation said earlier this year.
Lax regulations and poor enforcement of rules in the south Asian country have often been blamed for several large fires that have led to hundreds of deaths in recent years.
In 2020, three people were killed after an oil tank exploded at a container depot in Chittagong's Patenga area.
In July last year, 54 people died when an inferno ripped through a food processing factory outside the capital, Dhaka.
At least 70 people died in a fire that engulfed several buildings in a centuries-old neighbourhood of the Bangladesh capital in 2020.