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Bangladesh struggles to douse blaze

Initial probe finds private facility in Chittagong stored hazardous chemicals close to the export-bound garment products
Chemical containers lie scattered on Monday after the explosion at the BM Inland Container Depot, resulting in a fire that started on Saturday in Chittagong, 210km southeast of Dhaka.
Chemical containers lie scattered on Monday after the explosion at the BM Inland Container Depot, resulting in a fire that started on Saturday in Chittagong, 210km southeast of Dhaka.
(AP/PTI)

PTI   |   Dhaka   |   Published 07.06.22, 12:46 AM

Bangladeshi firefighters were on Monday struggling to douse the container depot fire that killed over 40 people and injured nearly 300.

According to an initial probe, the private facility in the port city of Chittagong stored hazardous chemicals close to the export-bound garment products.

A massive fire broke out at the BM Container Depot, a Bangladesh-Dutch joint venture, near the country’s main Chittagong sea port on Saturday night.

It is feared that the number of fatalities is likely to go up as some of the injured are in critical condition.

“Our firefighters are still working to extinguish the fire and prevent the blaze, which visibly originated from chemical containers, from spreading further,” fire brigade spokesman Anisur Rahman told mediapersons near the scene of the disaster.

TV footage showed smoke billowing out of the depot in Sitakunda, on the outskirts of the port city.

Official investigations were underway with the authorities forming separate committees to probe the tragedy.

However, the fire brigade said that its initial observations found that the depot had minimal safety equipment like hydrants.

Fire officials alleged that the management of the container facility did not inform rescuers about the presence of chemicals, which could have saved many lives, including those of firefighters.

“It (depot) actually had no fire safety plan,” a fire official said, adding that containers with hazardous chemicals were kept near those full of  garments while it was an utmost necessity to maintain distance and take extra caution for chemical containers.

A journalist who is covering the salvage operations told PTI by phone that the entire depot site on 21 acres of land now “looks like a war devastated area”.

Some containers were still emitting smoke over 41 hours after the eruption along with a series of subsequent explosions shattering the windows of buildings in the neighbourhood. Bangladesh earlier called military sappers to join the firefighters while an army officer said that they detected four “unexploded containers” of dangerous chemicals like hydrogen peroxide.

“The presence of chemicals made it difficult for us... it was too risky to work close by,” the officer told the private Ekattur TV channel.

Media reports on Sunday suggested that the fire and explosions killed 49 people, including nine firefighters, but the authorities said their latest tally was 41. “The salvage campaign is underway and we are yet to enter deep down the spot... so we are yet to be certain about the casualty figures,” an army official at the scene told reporters. PTI



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