First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

We need so many more of our readers to join them. The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country. We are inundated with tip-offs; we know where to look and what to do with the information when we have it – we just need the means to help us keep doing this work.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Bangladesh battles to douse blaze at container depot th...

Newsdeck

Bangladesh

Bangladesh battles to douse blaze at container depot that killed 41

General view of the fire at BM container depot in Shitalpur, Sitakunda Upazela, Chattogram, Bangladesh, 05 June 2022. At least 35 people are dead and over 450 are injured during a massive fire caused by an explosion at a private chemical container depot, according to the Fire services and the Police. The fire broke out at BM Container Limited in Shitalpur area in Chattogram around 10 pm last night, 29 firefighter units worked to put out the fire. EPA-EFE/STR
By Reuters
06 Jun 2022 0

DHAKA, June 6 (Reuters) - Firefighters in Bangladesh battled for a third day on Monday to stamp out a massive fire that killed 41 people at a container depot in an incident that spotlights the South Asian nation's poor safety record.

Drone footage showed thick columns of smoke and rows of burnt-out containers as Saturday’s fire persisted after a huge blast and shipping container explosions at Sitakunda, 40 km (25 miles) from the southeastern port city of Chittagong.

The fire has been largely reined in but not entirely extinguished, as containers nearby loaded with chemicals pose a risk of life-threatening explosions, fire officials said.

“Our firefighters are working hard, but due to the presence of chemicals it’s too risky to work close by,” said Anisur Rahman, fire service chief of the port city.

Similar explosions, some of which shattered the windows of buildings in the neighbourhood, have already complicated the firefighters’ task.

Troops have also joined the effort to prevent the spread of chemicals in nearby canals and along the Bay of Bengal coastline, officials said.

Officials revised the death toll down to 41 from 49, with more than 200 injured. The tally included at least nine dead firefighters, while 10 policemen were among the 50 rescue officials injured, said city police official Alauddin Talukder.

More deaths are feared, however, as some of the injured are in critical condition, said Chittagong doctor Mohammed Elias Hossain.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear. But fire officials suspect it could have originated in a container of hydrogen peroxide before spreading quickly.

“Almost all the containers with exportable and imported goods were burned,” said Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of industry body the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA).

At the depot were about 800 containers filled with exportable items, about 500 with imported items and about 3,000 that were empty, Sikder added, quoting officials of the shipping facility, BM Container Depot.

“Some 85% of the total exportable goods were readymade garment,” he said.

The privately-owned shipping facility has promised compensation of 1 million taka ($11,000) to the family of each worker killed in the fire.

Bangladesh has become the world’s second-biggest exporter of garments in recent decades, but its infrastructure for, and focus on, industrial safety are still nascent, the International Labour Organization said this year.

Lax regulations and poor enforcement have been blamed for conflagrations in recent years that led to hundreds of deaths.

In 2020, three people were killed after an oil tank exploded at a container depot in Chittagong’s Patenga area, while 54 died last July in an inferno in a food processing factory outside the capital, Dhaka.

In 2019, 70 were killed in a fire that engulfed several buildings in a centuries-old neighbourhood of the capital.

By Ruma Paul

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted