Sitakunda (Bangladesh): At least 49 people died and hundreds were injured after a fire sparked a huge chemical explosion at a shipping container depot in Bangladesh, officials said. The toll was expected to rise, with some of the over 300 people injured in serious condition, officials said, while volunteers reported there were more bodies inside the smouldering, wreckage-strewn facility.
The fire started at the depot in Sitakunda, which stores around 4,000 containers, many of them filled with garments destined for Western retailers. The facility is about 40 km from the major southern port of Chittagong.
Following the fire, containers holding chemicals exploded, engulfing firefighters, volunteers and journalists in an inferno, hurtling people and debris through the air, and turning the night sky a blazing orange. Buildings located kilometres away rattled with the force of the blast.
Elias Chowdhury, regional chief doctor, said that the number of dead was 49 but would increase. Firefighters continued to douse pockets of fire. “The death toll will rise as the rescue work has not been completed yet,” Chowdhury said. Reazul Karim, operations director of the fire department, said that at least seven firefighters died and that at least four others were missing.
Mujibur Rahman, the director of B M Container Depot, the firm operating the facility with around 600 workers, said that the cause of the initial fire was still unknown. The container depot held hydrogen peroxide, fire service chief Brigadier General Main Uddin told reporters. “We still could not control the fire because of the existence of this chemical,” he said.