43 killed in massive Bangladesh container depot blaze

Dhaka : A massive blaze, followed by a powerful explosion at a private container depot in Bangladesh’s Chittagong district has killed a total of 43 people, including seven firefighters, and injured some 500 others of which 10 of them were police personnel, authorities confirmed on Sunday. The devastating blaze broke out at about 10.30 p.m. on Saturday at the private BM Container Depot Ltd, a Netherlands-Bangladesh joint venture company, in Sitakunda.

Authorities said that within 40 minutes of the raging fire, there was a massive explosion and the blaze spread from one container to the other due to the presence of explosive chemicals. The Director General of Fire Service said none of the owners or directors of the company are available, and amount or type of chemicals stored or how many containers are there is not immediately known. As the fire is still raging which might take another 24 hours to be completely doused, it is not possible to go near the depot, the official added.

So far 15 of the deceased have been identified, health officials said. Assistant Director of Chittagong Fire Service and Civil Defense, Md Faruk Hossain Sikdar told IANS: “Around 29 firefighting units are working to douse the blaze and 50 ambulances are on standby at the spot.” The ICU beds are already full at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH), about 21 km away from the depot, while leave of the doctors have been cancelled in case of a crisis.

The injured people have been admitted to the different hospitals, including the CMCH and the Combined Military Hospital (CMH). The district’s Divisional Commissioner Md Ashraf Uddin told IANS that 150-200 army personnel, deployed from Dhaka, have also reached the spot. He said the fire has been raging for 13 hours now, and is yet to doused.

Regarding the dead firefighters, he said that they were in close proximity to a container while trying to put out the blaze when it suddenly exploded. According to a fire official, it was difficult to immediately identify which of the hundreds of containers in the depot. “In this situation, entering the depot is extremely dangerous. As a result, putting out the fire is impossible,” he said.

DIG Anwar Hossain of the Chittagong Range Police said there were still explosions inside the depot. The Divisional Commissioner told IANS that there are two canals linked with the depot through drains which are also connected to the Bay of Bengal. The Army team will work on checking the extent of chemical leakage from the depot to the Bay of Bengal, he added.

He further said that families of the deceased are being given Tk 50,000, while Tk 20,000 is being given to the kin of the injured. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, President Abdul Hamid and Speaker of Parliament condoled the deaths.



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