DHAKA, Bangladesh – A massive fire at a container depot near a port city in southeast Bangladesh has killed at least 38 people and injured more than 100 others, local officials and media reported Sunday, as as firefighters struggled to bring the blaze under control.
The fire at BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, broke out around midnight on Saturday following explosions in a container full of chemicals. The cause of the fire could not be immediately determined. The depot is located near the main seaport of Chittagong, 216 kilometers (134 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.
At least five firefighters were among the dead, according to Brig. General Main Uddin, Director General of Bangladesh Fire and Civil Defense. Fifteen other firefighters were being treated for burns, he added.
Several rounds of explosions occurred after the initial blast as the fire continued to spread, Uddin said. Bangladesh Army explosives experts were called in to assist the firefighters. The explosions shattered windows of nearby buildings and were felt up to 4 kilometers (2 1/2 miles) away, officials and local media said.
Firefighters were still working to bring the blaze under control on Sunday.
The death toll reached 38 on Sunday afternoon, according to the Ekattor TV station, and the region’s civil surgeon said the number could rise further.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock at the accident and ordered adequate arrangements for the medical treatment of the injured.
Bangladesh has a history of fatal industrial incidents
Bangladesh has a history of industrial disasters, including factories that caught fire with workers trapped inside. Watchdog groups blamed corruption and lax enforcement.
Global brands, which employ tens of thousands of low-paid workers in Bangladesh, have been criticized for improving factory conditions in recent years. In the country’s huge garment industry, which employs around 4 million people, safety conditions have improved dramatically after massive reforms, but experts say accidents could still happen if other sectors don’t contribute. no similar changes.
In 2012, around 117 workers died when they were trapped behind locked exits at a garment factory in Dhaka.
The country’s worst industrial disaster occurred the following year, when the Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.
In 2019, a fire tore through a cramped 400-year-old area with apartments, shops and warehouses in the older part of Dhaka and killed at least 67 people. Another fire in Old Dhaka at a house storing chemicals illegally killed at least 123 people in 2010.
In 2021, a fire at a food and drink factory outside Dhaka killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door.