Disasters & Accidents

At least 39 dead, over 200 injured in container depot explosion in Bangladesh

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, June 5 (EFE) – At least 39 people died and over 200 others were injured in an explosion at a privately-run inland container depot near Bangladesh’s largest seaport of Chittagong in the southeast, authorities said Sunday.

Officials said that the victims in the fire, which broke out late Saturday at BM Container Depot in Sitakunda, about 20km (12.5 miles) north of the main port, included policemen and fire service personnel.

“So far 39 people have been killed. The number of wounded people is over 200. At least 164 are undergoing treatment at Chittagong Medical College Hospital. Another 35 are taking treatment at Park View Hospital. Some people are taking also treatment at the Combined Military Hospital,” Ashraf Uddin, the administrative head of Chittagong division, told EFE.

Many of the injured had their hands or legs severed and at least three people with over 65 percent burns were transferred to the military hospital.

Uddin said that the government would provide a sum of 50,000 taka ($560) and 20,000 taka to those injured.

“From the government we are giving every possible support, including supplying free medicines. The district administration opened a booth at the Chittagong Medical College hospital,” he said.

Mohammad Kofil Uddin, an official of fire service in Chittagong, told EFE so far seven fire fighters have been found dead, while 15 others have been injured – two of them in a critical condition -, who have been admitted to the Combined Military Hospital.

“We had 12 firefighters missing. Bodies of seven firefighters have now been found. Five others are still missing,” he said.

Chittagong fire service chief Anisur Rahman said the fire started around 9.20pm local time on Saturday and spread quickly.

He added that the depot had thousands of containers and some them possessed highly flammable chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide.

“As the fire spread, some containers started exploding (…) but the fire has not been brought under control yet,” Rahman told EFE.

Uddin told EFE that the armed forces had been deployed to help the fire department and the police, who have been on the scene since Saturday night, to extinguish the flames.

“They needed specialized support. Initially, 51 army persons joined, led by a lieutenant colonel. More army persons are on the way,” he said.

Mahmud Ullah Maruf, the deputy chief of Chittagong district administration, said a seven-member committee has been formed to probe into the incident, the causes of which remains unknown.

BM Container Depot Ltd is a joint venture between Netherlands and Bangladesh, and began its operations in 2011.

Muzibur Rahman, a director of BM Container Depot, told EFE around 250 workers were in the depot at time of fire, and did not rule out the possibility of “an act of sabotage.”

Bangladesh Inland Container Association (BICA) spokesperson Ruhul Amin Sikder said as per their information some containers in the depot had hydrogen peroxide stored.

“After the fire, some containers with hydrogen peroxide might have exploded. The magnitude of explosion is no less than what we have seen in Beirut in Lebanon few years back,” he underlined.

Sikder said Bangladesh has 19 private container depots, four of them in Sitakunda region, and a bigger causality could be avoided because of a significant distance between the depots.

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