Chemical blasts in Bangladesh kill at least 41 people, say reports

Article by Amanda Jasi

A CHEMICAL blaze and explosions at a container depot in Bangladesh have killed at least 41 people and “hundreds” of others are missing or injured, BBC News reports.  

Those killed and injured include rescue workers, and an earlier article from BBC News said journalists reporting on the blaze were among those missing.

Previous coverage reported at least 49 deaths, which has since been revised, with officials noting that some bodies had been counted twice. Reported figures on those injured differ but BBC News says about 300 people were injured, more than 12 of whom are in critical condition, and two firefighters are among those missing. The blaze broke out on 4 June.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but the Washington Post reports that fire officials said it spread quickly to containers of hydrogen peroxide, which led to multiple explosions. BBC News adds that officials said hydrogen peroxide containers were incorrectly labelled, and firefighters doused flames with water instead of foam, setting off an explosive reaction.

The report says the depot owner has not commented on the allegations. The incident occurred at the BM Inland Container Depot, at Sitakunda, in the Chittagong district, Bangladesh. It is a joint venture with a Netherlands-based company. According to Associated Press, the blaze has raised concerns about the safety standards of such storage facilities in Bangladesh.

Based on conflicting reports, the depot contained up to about 4,000 containers at the time of the incident, and as many as 33 held hydrogen peroxide according to the Washington Post.

According to BBC News, the blaze is under control but has not been extinguished. The Washington Post reported previously that according to Atikuzzaman, Assistant Director of Fire Service, the army and navy were helping to douse the fire. BBC News previously reported that the army deployed sandbags to stop chemicals flowing into the Indian Ocean.

Reports highlight that people have compared the incident to a 2020 blast in Beirut that killed around 200 people and injured around 6,000. It occurred at a warehouse storing ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut. A month later, another fire broke out at the port. News articles have also noted that the incident is the latest in a series reflecting the country’s poor industrial safety record.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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