At least 40 people were killed and over 450 injured in a massive fire caused by an explosion that swept through a private chemical container depot in southeastern Bangladesh, officials said on Sunday.
The devastating blaze broke out at about 10.30 p.m. on Saturday at the private BM Container Depot Ltd, a Netherlands-Bangladesh joint venture company, in Sitakunda.
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Authorities said that within 40 minutes of the fire, there was a massive explosion and the blaze spread from one container to the other due to the presence of explosive chemicals.
The Director General of Fire Service said none of the owners or directors of the company are available, and amount or type of chemicals stored or how many containers are there is not immediately known.
As the fire is still raging which might take another 24 hours to be completely doused, it is not possible to go near the depot, the official added.
The fire has spread to a 5-km area. Assistant Director of Chittagong Fire Service and Civil Defense, Md Faruk Hossain Sikdar told IANS: “Around 29 firefighting units are working to douse the blaze and 50 ambulances are on standby at the spot.”
The ICU beds are already full at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH), about 21 km away from the depot, while leave of the doctors have been cancelled in case of a crisis.
“So far 40 dead bodies reached the morgue here”, a police officer stationed at the state-run Chattagram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) told newsmen.
The injured people have been admitted to the different hospitals, including the CMCH and the Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
BM Container Depot is set up as an inland container depot which has been operating since May 2011. There were different kinds of import and export chemicals in the containers.
In a statement, Mujibur Rahman, director of the BM Container Depot, claimed it was not clear what caused the fire.
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“But I think the fire started from the container. Arrangements are being made to ensure that the injured get the best treatment. We will bear the entire cost of the treatment. Those who were injured in the accident will be given the maximum compensation.
“In addition, we will take responsibility for all the families of all the victims,” he added.