Deadly Bangladesh container depot fire brought under control

Authorities have not determined the cause of the disaster but suspect a container of hydrogen peroxide was the source. PHOTO: AFP
At least nine firefighters were among the dead and three were missing. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DHAKA (REUTERS) - Firefighters in Bangladesh brought a blaze at a container depot under control on Tuesday (June 7), three days after fiery explosions killed at least 41 people at a facility that a senior fire service official suspected had not followed safety guidelines.

Drone footage showed smoke and rows of burnt-out containers from the fire that began late on Saturday, triggering blasts and blazes at Sitakunda, 40km (25 miles) from the south-eastern port city of Chittagong.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the disaster but suspect a container of hydrogen peroxide was the source.

"The fire has not been put out completely but there is no risk of further explosion as our team has sorted out the chemical containers .. one by one," senior fire service official Monir Hossain told Reuters from the scene.

"We haven't found any basic fire safety measures ... There were simply some extinguishers. Nothing else. They didn't follow storage guidelines for hazardous chemicals." The director of the facility, the BM Container Depot, did not answer calls to his mobile telephone seeking comment.

Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association said on Monday its members, including BM Container Depot, regularly handled hydrogen peroxide without any incident and as far as he knew, the company followed guidelines.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said an investigation had been launched and those responsible would face justice.

Bangladesh has grown quickly over recent decades to become the world's second-biggest exporter of garments but its industrial safety standards have not kept pace with its economic development and fires are common in factories and other places of work.

The confirmed death toll was revised down to 41 from 49 because of some double counting of victims, police said. At least nine firefighters were among the dead and three were missing, they said.

Chittagong's chief doctor, Mohammed Elias Hossain, said some of the injured were in critical condition. Of the 200 or so injured, 50 were rescue officials, police said.

Troops were deployed to try to prevent the spread of chemicals into canals and along the nearby coast, officials said.

The last major fire in Bangladesh was in July last year when 54 people were killed at a food processing factory outside the capital, Dhaka.

Bangladesh's deadliest fire was in 2012, when a blaze swept through a garment factory killing 112 workers.

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