- The fire broke out at the BM Container Depot at Bhatiari around 11pm
- Several containers of chemicals exploded simultaneously
- Around 600 people work in BM Container Depot
- 49 people were killed and more than 200 injured
- 1,000 containers of RMG owners were burnt in the fire, says BGMEA vice president
At least 49 people were killed and more than 200, including cops and fire service officials, injured after a fire broke out at a container depot in Chattogram's Sitakunda on Saturday night.
The fire broke out at the BM Container Depot at Bhatiari around 11pm and many containers of chemicals exploded simultaneously. The explosions reportedly shattered the windows of several buildings nearby and were felt from areas as far as 4 kilometres away.
More than 200 people have been admitted to CMCH, Parkview Hospital, and Combined Military Hospital. Some 30 of them are in critical condition.
On information, 19 firefighting units rushed to the spot and started working to douse the blaze, said Agrabad Fire Service's Assistant Director Faruk Hossain Shikder last night.
Civil Surgeon Mohammad Ellius Chowdhury confirmed TBS about the death of seven people early today. He also said the number of casualties may rise as some are in critical condition.
Meanwhile, some more bodies were brought to Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) from the spot, raising the death toll to 21.
"Treatment of the patients with critical burns will soon require ICU facility," Dr Ellius said adding, "We have asked several private hospitals to prepare ICU beds as the situation may get worse with time."
"Condition of fifteen people among those admitted in the Parkview Hospital are critical. Relatives of these patients have been asked to be ready for any situation, he added.
"More than 100 injured people have been brought to CMCH on 15 ambulances and cars from the depot. Among them, 50 were admitted to the burn unit," said SI Alauddin of CMCH Police Outpost.
Forty more injured workers were taken to Parkview Hospital. Some injured were rushed to Combined Military Hospital and other hospitals in Chattogram.
CMCH Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit Head Dr Rafiq Uddin told The Business Standard that 50% of the victim admitted here are critical while some of the patients have been shifted to other wards due to lack of space.
Dr Liton Palit, registrar of the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit, noted that seventeen patients who came in with burned trachea are most critical.
Chattogram Divisional Health Director Dr Shahriar Hasan said, "Those who suffered minor burns are being identified and released after giving first aid. The condition of the five more workers is critical."
Meanwhile, three of the injured survivors of the deadly container depot fire have been admitted to Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery till Sunday morning.
The patients with around 16-22% burn injury were brought to Dhaka around 10am in the morning, Dr Samanta Lal Sen, coordinator of the institute, told The Business Standard on Sunday.
"The number of patients here may rise further," Dr Samanta Lal said adding that the unit is prepared to tackle the rush.
One of the deceased was identified as Mominul Haque, 22. He was a computer operator of the depot.
The Civil Surgeon of Chittagong has instructed all the government and private medical doctors of Chittagong to come to CMCH urgently.
"The fire originated from a Cambodia-bound container of Hydrogen peroxide and soon it spread to more containers," said container depot owners' association President Nurul Qayyuum Khan.
BM Container Depot Director Mujibur Rahman said, "The cause of the fire could not be ascertained yet. However, I think the fire started from a container. We will stand by the victims. Arrangements are being made for the injured to get better treatment. We will bear the full cost of their treatment."
"Those who have suffered casualties in this accident will be given maximum compensation. Besides, the families of all the victims will be taken care of as well. Assistance will be provided as the administration decides. Please stay by the victims," he added.
An injured driver named Shahalam told TBS, "I went to the depot to unload goods. I fainted following a sudden explosion. I can't remember what happened afterward."
Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, vice president of BGMEA told TBS that over 1000 TUEs RMG might have been burnt, of them around 900 for US-bound and 100 TEUs Europe-bound. These products were brought here for export. There are also products for US-based company H&M, he added.
Around 600 people work in BM Container Depot. It has a storage capacity of 6,500 TEUs in its 30-acre area.
Earlier in 2020, three workers were killed and three more injured after an oil tank exploded at a container depot in Chattogram's Patenga area.
In Bangladesh, there are 19 inland container depots, which handle almost 100% of export goods. These depots also handle 38 types of import goods. All the depots have a storage capacity of 77,000 TEUs containers.
Bangladesh has a history of industrial disasters, including factories catching fire with workers trapped inside. Monitoring groups have blamed corruption and lax enforcement for deadly incidents over the years.
Global brands, which employ tens of thousands of low-paid workers in Bangladesh, have come under fire to improve factory conditions in recent years. In the country's massive garment industry, which employs about 4 million people, safety conditions have improved significantly after massive reforms, but experts say accidents could still occur if other sectors do not make similar changes.
In 2012, about 117 workers died when they were trapped behind locked exits in a garment factory in Dhaka.
The country's worst industrial disaster occurred the following year, when the Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.
In 2019, a blaze ripped through a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka and killed at least 67 people. Another fire in Old Dhaka in a house illegally storing chemicals killed at least 123 people in 2010.
In 2021, a fire at a food and beverage factory outside Dhaka killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door.