At least 49 people have been killed and more than 300 injured in the crash that occurred Saturday evening in a container warehouse in Southeast Bangladesh, local authorities said on Sunday. First, a fire broke out in the warehouse and then a massive explosion broke out windows in nearby buildings.
The fire broke out at around 9 p.m. local time in Sitakunda, about 40 km from the port city of Chittagong. According to the latest information, 49 people were killed. Previously, 25 people were reported killed, including five firefighters.
Over 300 people are injured. The surrounding hospitals are bursting at the seams, crowds of people are waiting in the corridors. Doctors appeal to residents to donate blood urgently needed for the injured. Some of the victims were transported to the capital city of Dhaka. The death toll is likely to rise even more as many of the injured are in critical condition.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Firefighters suspect that the hydrogen peroxide container caught fire and the fire spread to other containers. Hundreds of firefighters and police officers showed up on the scene.
A powerful explosion and “fireballs falling from the sky like rain”
While extinguishing the fire, there was a huge explosion of the chemicals stored in the warehouse. It was so strong that it shattered the windows of nearby buildings. According to some reports, the explosion could be heard from a distance of up to 30-40 kilometers. Witnesses to the event described “fireballs falling from the sky like rain”.
– The explosion threw me about 10 meters from where I was standing. My arms and legs are burned – one of the witnesses of the incident said in an interview with the AFP agency.
As reported by the BBC, on Sunday morning volunteers, some wearing only sandals on their feet, were still lifting the bodies of the dead from the smoldering ruins. Firefighters are constantly fighting the fire, and it is difficult to extinguish the fire by continuous explosions. The military deployed sandbags around the burning warehouse to prevent chemicals from reaching the ocean.
Photos from the scene show the twisted remains of metal shipping containers and the collapsed warehouse roof from which smoke is rising. A local journalist told the BBC there was a pungent odor in the air.
Several firefighters are among the victims. Many people are still missing, including journalists who reported on the warehouse fire before it exploded.
According to the BBC, many people in Bangladesh compare Saturday’s catastrophe to the huge explosion that shook Beirut in 2020.
Bangladesh – the largest clothing exporter to the West
Sitakunda is Bangladesh’s main seaport and the country’s second largest city. According to local services, there were about 4,000 containers in the warehouse and clothing worth millions of dollars, waiting for export.
Bangladesh is the main clothing supplier to the West and the second largest clothing exporter in the world. In the country, industrial fires often occur, for which failure to comply with health and safety regulations is blamed.
Main photo source: Reuters