Disasters & Accidents

Bangladesh on alert to prevent environmental disaster after depot fire

Dhaka, June 7 (EFE).- Authorities in Bangladesh said Tuesday they were on an alert to avert a possible environmental disaster due to a deadly fire at a container depot near the country’s largest seaport Chittagong.

The fire broke out at Netherlands-Bangladesh joint venture BM Container Depot in Sitakunda, 20 km north of Chittagong port, at 9.20 pm on Saturday.

The Bangladesh Army, working with firefighters to douse the inferno, said it had set up a dam in a canal to prevent the chemicalized-water from reaching the Bay of Bengal.

Army spokesman Abdullah Ibn Zaid said they were not expecting any environmental hazard, but the steps were taken as a precaution.

“There is no scope for environmental disaster,” Zaid told EFE.

Reports indicated hydrogen peroxide was in the depot when the fire broke out, said the spokesperson. “But it is still only an assumption.”

The spokesperson said the authorities were yet to confirm any poisonous chemical, but the army had “asked people to stay alert.”

“Environmentalists have collected the samples. Hopefully, we will get the report today and then we can be sure of its impact,” he said.

Public representative Monir Ahmed told EFE that they had received instructions but refrained from making any public announcement yet over the issue to avoid panicking.

“(The) army asked us to stay alert, not to get exposed to rainwater. If necessary, we will tell people about it,” he said.

Suman Barua, chairman of the Department of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Engineering of Chittagong University, said it could be a low-risk impact.

“Hydrogen peroxide is an unstable product, so it breaks down at a short temperature. The chance of polluting the air is low,” Barua told EEF.

Barua said there could be some impact on microorganisms if the chemical mixed with soil as hydrogen peroxide often serves as a germ killer.

Meanwhile, the toll from the incident rose to 43 after firefighters found two bodies on Tuesday, fire service assistant director Anisur Rahman told reporters.

A series of explosions shook the entire area on Saturday evening, leaving hundreds screaming for help, said witnesses.

Authorities said hydrogen peroxide stored in some containers might have caused the explosions.

Local media reported residents in surrounding villages had been suffering from eyes and skin burning, pain in throats, itching, sneezing, and coughing since the explosions.

They also complained of feeling abnormally high temperatures. EFE


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