By Azad Majumder
Dhaka, Jun 5 (EFE) – At least 49 people died and over 200 others were injured in an explosion at a privately-run 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.
“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 the Chittagong division, told Efe.
Uddin said that the government would provide a sum of 50,000 takas ($560) and 20,000 takas 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 the fire service in Chittagong, told Efe so far seven firefighters have been found dead, while 15 others have been injured.
“We had 12 firefighters missing. The 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 9.20 pm local time on Saturday and spread quickly.
He added that the depot had thousands of containers and some of 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 pointed out.
Mohammad Salahuddin, a resident of a village near the scene, told Efe that he heard an explosion so loud it broke some windows of buildings and mosques in the area around 10:30 pm Saturday.
“When we realized what happened, many of us rushed to the scene. We were empty-handed, so there was little we could do to stop the hell. I was there until three in the morning, and I helped carry many injured people. to the ambulances,” he said.
The armed forces had been deployed to help the fire department and the police, who have been on the scene since Saturday night, extinguish the flames, according to Uddin.
“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 the Chittagong district administration, said a seven-member committee has been formed to probe into the incident, the causes of which remain 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 the time of the 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 the explosion is no less than what we have seen in Beirut in Lebanon a few years back,” he underlined.