Bangladesh: Over 50 Killed, 400 Injured in Massive Fire at Container Depot in Chittagong
A massive fire broke out at the BM container depot at Sitakunda in the port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh on Saturday. So far, 50 people, including six firefighters, have reportedly been killed in the incident, while 400 others have been injured.
The fire broke out at the container depot around 9:30 pm on Saturday, June 4. It was initially learned that the container depot was stocked with chemicals for export. After the fire broke out, containers exploded, with the blast impacting an area of at least four square kilometres around the site. The windows of nearby houses shattered. The fire is still on, as 25 units of fire service work to extinguish it.
Brigadier General Mainuddin, director-general of the fire service, said:"It took time to control the fire as the containers were full of chemicals, the reason why the fire was spreading fast. The depot had about 50,000 containers. As the night progressed, the severity of the fire increased. However, the level of fire has decreased, but it has not been brought under control."
In addition to fire service personnel, 250 members of the Bangladesh Army are working on the rescue operation. A special army team has has joined them to assist in rescue operations and fire control activities. Army engineers and security personnel are also deployed. The team is working to prevent the spread of chemicals in the fire due to the explosion of chemicals. Military police are also assisting the army in controlling the situation. Besides, the army's medical team has been working on the medical services of the injured. Army ambulances were seen assisting in the transfer of the injured to Chittagong Medical and CMH. So far, 15 people, including 14 fire service members, are undergoing treatment at Chittagong CMH.
The area around the depot that caught fire on the outskirts of the main city, is populated mainly by lower-income people.
The loud noise of the explosion shattered the windows and doors of many houses. Most homes had their televisions, refrigerators, and electric fans damaged. There are a large number of tin tents around the depot. At around 1 pm, residents said they could not stay indoors because of the black and toxic fumes.
The owner of the depot or any other official did not come to the spot. The fire service rescue team did not know what chemicals were in the container depot, which has been hampering the rescue operations.
Samant Lal Sen, the chief coordinator of the institute, told reporters that they had made all the preparations and no logistical support is needed in Chittagong at present. Sheikh Hasina Burn Institute was in constant touch with them, he said.
According to Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha , the President of Bangladesh, Advocate Abdul Hamid, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have expressed deep grief over the loss of life in the fire.
The Prime Minister called upon the government, party leaders and workers to come forward to control the fire quickly, conduct rescue operations, and provide all possible assistance to the victims.
Sitakunda MP Didarul Alam said an investigation should be launched into how chemical depots were set up in densely populated areas.
The container depot industry in Chittagong started its journey 24 years ago to manage import and export goods.
Nurul Qayyum Khan, chairman of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association, said, "No major accident had occurred in the 24 years since the industry started. Earlier, a small fire broke out at the depot. But in those cases, it was possible to bring the fire under control quickly."
State Minister for Labour and Employment, Begum Mannujan Sufian, has said that Rs 2 lakh will be paid to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.