06/06/2022, 12.46
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Chittagong: 49 dead and over 200 injured after warehouse explosion

by Sumon Corraya

A fire caused the tragedy. Nine firefighters were also among the victims. The company that owns the warehouse did not state whether chemicals were also stored.

Chittagong (AsiaNews) - At least 49 dead and over 200 injured: this is the death toll after an explosion at a container depot in Sitakunda, near the city of Chittagong, in southeastern Bangladesh, on 4 June.  Villages within a radius of a few kilometres were affected: window panes shattered and children and elderly people suffered from smoke and chemicals released into the air.

It was a fire that caused the tragedy: the managers of the depot, BM Container Depot, allegedly did not immediately call the fire brigade, which only intervened after receiving calls from residents at around 9 p.m. (local time). Thinking that the containers contained only clothes, the fire brigade tried to extinguish the fire, but - according to initial investigations - dangerous chemicals, such as oxygen peroxide, were probably also stored in the depot, which would have caused the deflagration. At least nine firefighters died and three are missing; 14 others are hospitalised with burns.

Brigadier General Main Uddin said that it had never happened that so many members of the fire brigade died in a single incident. The victims of the explosion, some in critical condition, are admitted to various hospitals in Chattogram and Dhaka. 

When Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mominur Rahman visited the Chittagong Medical College Hospital in the evening, he confirmed the number of the dead, adding that the district administration will provide financial assistance of 50 thousand taka (€520) to the families of the dead and 25 thousand taka (€260) to the injured. He went on to say that the Ministry of Labour and Employment will provide 200 thousand taka (EUR 2,083) to the families of the victims, while the Ministry of Calamities and Relief has allocated 10 million taka in cash.

The president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce, Mahbubul Alam, said it was 'unfortunate that the warehouse was not up to standard. As traders who export, we pay the consequences'. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association claims that USD 100 million worth of garments were lost in the incident.

Mujibur Rahman, managing director of Smart Group, owner of BM Container Depot, is the treasurer of the ruling Awami League in the southern district of Chittagong. According to locals, he had sought election in the last parliamentary elections. 

The managing director of Smart Group, Shamsul Haider Siddiqui, announced the incident in a press release yesterday. The note states that if the family members of employees killed in the explosion had children, they will receive a salary until they reach the age of majority, while those seeking employment will be eligible for employment. BM Container did not specify whether hazardous chemicals were also present in the warehouse. 

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