In a shocking incident, at least 49 people are reported to have been killed with more than 200 people including police and firemen, injured after a fire broke out at a container depot in Chattogram’s Sitakunda in Bangladesh on the 4th of June 2022.
The fire is reported to have broken out at the BM Container Depot at Bhatiari around 2300 hrs on the 4th of June when many shipping 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. 19 firefighting units were rushed to the depot and started working to douse the blaze.
“Treatment of the patients with critical burns will soon require ICU facility,” Civil Surgeon Dr.Mohammad Ellius Chowdhury 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,” reported The Business Standard quoting SI Alauddin of CMCH Police Outpost.
“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.”
Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, vice president of BGMEA told TBS that “over 1000 TEUs 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.
It has been reported that around 600 people work in BM Container Depot which has a storage capacity of 6,500 TEUs in its 30-acre area. Bangladesh reportedly has over 19 inland container depots handling almost 100% of export goods.
These depots also handle 38 different types of import goods including hazardous goods and reefer cargoes. The depots have a storage capacity of 77,000 TEUs containers.
There have also been warnings in the past about hazardous goods left uncleared in the port areas of Chittagong where over 250 TEUs of hazardous goods including some since 1994 have been sitting inside the port.
Hydrogen Peroxide is a Class 5.1 hazardous cargo classified under UN Nos. 2014,2015 and 2984 depending on its composition.
This substance decomposes under the influence of light and on warming, producing oxygen. which increases fire hazards. The substance is a strong oxidant and reacts violently with combustible and reducing materials capable of generating fire and explosion hazards, particularly in the presence of metals.
The substance can be absorbed into the body by inhalation of its vapour, by ingestion and through the skin and is corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. It is corrosive on ingestion and the vapour is severely irritating to the respiratory tract. Ingestion may cause strong foam formation with the risk of asphyxiation and aspiration.
Many patients that were admitted to the hospital came with burned tracheas which Dr Liton Palit, registrar of the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit, described as “most critical”.