At least 49 people died in a major fire in a container depot in eastern Bangladesh, according to preliminary information from the authorities. In addition, more than 200 people suffered burn injuries in the fire apparently caused by an explosion at a site near the port city of Chittagong, said the district’s health chief, Elious Chowdhury, on Sunday afternoon.
It was feared that an undisclosed number of people might still be at the site, trapped by the flames.
According to a fire department spokesman, the fire broke out late on Saturday evening in the depot of BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, for an unknown reason and had not been completely extinguished by Sunday. Explosions in some containers made extinguishing the fire difficult, said Anisur Rahman, a spokesman for the fire department. Firefighters found chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide in some containers. They said they could have exploded.
Nine firefighters were also among the dead, Chief of Fire and Civil Protection Department Main Uddin said. Never before have so many firefighters died in a single fire. According to him, a special team of firefighters was flown in from the capital Dhaka, about 300 kilometers away, to support the local fire brigade. 250 military personnel also helped put out the fire and also tried to prevent chemicals from spilling into a nearby river.
Depending on the source, there were different reports on the preliminary number of dead and injured. In addition, authorities expected the number of victims to continue to rise: it was feared that people could be trapped by the fire in places on the site that the fire brigade was initially unable to reach. The depot is 20 kilometers from Chittagong – the country’s largest port – and housed more than 4,000 containers, as well as buildings and sheds.