Latest Fire Warehouse to Highlight Bangladesh Industrial Safety

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh –

Authorities in Bangladesh on Monday were still struggling to determine the cause of a devastating fire that killed at least 49 people, including nine firefighters and injured more than 100 others, officials and local media reported, as experts were concerned about safety standards in the country’s industrial sector.

Efforts to extinguish the fire at BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, continued into the night after hell broke out around midnight Saturday following an explosion in a container full of chemicals.

Authorities said there were more than 4,000 containers at the warehouse spread across 24 acres of land when the fire and subsequent explosions occurred, and about 1,000 containers had cargo including chemicals at the time.

On Monday, nearly 40 hours after the first explosion occurred, smoke was still billowing from containers at the scene. Firefighters, called in from neighboring districts and from the capital Dhaka, took extreme care in their work.

One soldier spoke into a loudspeaker, urging everyone to move.

“We found more chemical containers, please get out,” the person shouted.

As many as 21 firefighters were killed or injured, and the scene turned into a nightmare for them.

“Working at BM Depot, it was tough having to carry them (firefighters) on my shoulders, people that I once considered my own children, worked with them,” said Purna Chandra Mutsuddy, deputy director of the agency. Fire and Civil Bangladesh said. Defense.

“I feel like nothing in the world can be more painful than this,” he added.

Officials said the death toll had increased over the weekend as many workers and firefighters were unaware of the chemical storage at the chemical depot, and after the initial fire, they approached the sites. explosives container. Several hundred workers and dozens of firefighters were trying to put out the fire when the first explosion occurred.

The warehouse is located near the country’s main Chittagong Seaport, about 210 kilometers (130 mi) southeast of the capital, Dhaka, and it is one of 19 such depots in the region.

The latest fire has raised concerns about whether such facilities in Bangladesh, a developing economy in South Asia, will maintain safety standards.

Khairul Alam Sujan, Vice President of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said on Sunday that containers of hazardous chemicals were kept along with ready-to-export garments.

He said it was important to maintain a distance from containers containing any dangerous chemicals.

Firefighters said more than a dozen containers contained hydrogen peroxide, a substance that helps spread fire after the explosion, but it is unclear what caused the initial explosion of such force.

The country’s fire chief regrets that they did not ask anyone from the warehouse management to obtain detailed information about the containers and chemicals as they worked on the scene.

Bangladeshi media have criticized the institutional capacity to ensure safety at that facility.

“The fire is the latest in a growing list of tragedies that have brought Bangladesh’s appalling industrial safety record into the spotlight once again,” the Daily Star said in an editorial on Monday. “, the Daily Star said in an editorial on Monday.

“Poor infrastructure and institutional preparation for industrial safety make such incidents of fire almost inevitable,” the Daily Star said.

The International Labor Organization said in a 2020 report that industrial safety in Bangladesh is in its infancy.

“A comprehensive framework covering all safety-related issues in various sectors, economic activities and commercial establishments – relevant to emergencies like COVID-19 – needs to be developed,” it said.

The ILO said Bangladesh needed a “reliable and responsible industrial safety management structure.”

On Monday morning, authorities began collecting DNA samples from family members of those who died in the fire, whose burns left many of the bodies unidentifiable.

Explosives experts from the Bangladesh army were called in to assist the fire brigade. The explosions shattered windows of nearby buildings and could be felt up to 4 kilometers (2 and a half miles) away, officials and local media said.

The death toll remained at 49 as of Monday, according to broadcaster Ekattor. But the area’s civilian surgeon said the number could still rise as the blaze raged on Monday night.

More than a dozen victims were airlifted and taken to a specialist hospital in the capital, Dhaka. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock at the accident and ordered full medical treatment for the injured.

Bangladesh has a history of industrial disasters, including burning factories with trapped workers inside. Monitoring groups have blamed corruption and lax enforcement.

In the country’s huge garment industry, which employs around 4 million people, safety conditions have improved dramatically after major reforms, but experts say accidents could still happen if the Other industries did 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 came the following year, when the Rana Plaza garment factory outside the capital Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

In 2019, a fire tore through a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka and left at least 67 people dead. Another fire in Old Dhaka in a house that illegally stored 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.


Alam reports from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh

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