DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Authorities in Bangladesh were still struggling Monday to determine the cause of a devastating fire that killed at least 49 people, including nine firefighters, and injured more than 100 others, officials and officials said. local media, as experts have raised. concern about the safety standard in the industrial sector of the country.
Efforts to put out the fire at BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, continued overnight after all hell broke out around midnight on Saturday following explosions in a container full of chemicals.
Officials said the number of casualties increased over the weekend as many workers and firefighters were unaware of the chemical storage at the depot, and after the initial fire approached the explosive containers. A few hundred workers and dozens of firefighters were trying to put out the fire when the first explosion took place.
The depot is located near the main seaport of Chittagong, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka, and is one of 19 such depots in the region.
The latest fire has raised questions about whether these facilities in Bangladesh, a booming economy in South Asia, meet safety standards.
Khairul Alam Sujan, vice president of the Bangladesh Forwarders Association, said on Sunday that containers with hazardous chemicals were kept with those filled with garments ready for export.
He said it was important to maintain a distance from containers with dangerous chemicals.
Firefighters said more than a dozen containers contained hydrogen peroxide, which helped spread the fire after the explosion, but the cause of the initial explosion was unclear.
Bangladeshi media have criticized the institutional capacity to provide security at these facilities.
“The fire…is the latest in a growing list of tragedies that are bringing Bangladesh’s appalling industrial safety record back into the limelight,” the Daily Star newspaper said in a statement on Monday. editorial.
“Poor infrastructure and institutional preparedness for industrial safety…makes such fires almost inevitable,” the Daily Star said.
The International Labor Organization said in a 2020 report that industrial safety in Bangladesh is still in its infancy.
“A comprehensive framework covering all security-related issues in different sectors, economic activities and business establishments – with reference to emergencies such as COVID-19 – must be developed,” he said.
The ILO said Bangladesh needs a “credible and accountable industrial safety governance structure”.
On Monday morning, authorities began collecting DNA samples from family members of those who died in the fire, as the burns left many bodies unrecognizable.
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.
The death toll remained at 49 on Monday, according to the Ekattor TV channel. But the area’s civil surgeon said the number could rise further as the fire raged for a second night.
More than a dozen victims were airlifted and taken to a specialist hospital in the capital, Dhaka. 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 industrial disasters, including factories that caught fire with workers trapped inside. Watchdog groups blamed corruption and lax enforcement.
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.