At least 49 dead in second day of cargo depot fire in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh – A massive fire at a container depot near a port city in southeastern Bangladesh has killed at least 49 people, including nine firefighters, and injured more than 100 others, officials and local media reported Sunday, as efforts to to put out the fire until the second night.

The inferno at the BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, broke out around midnight on Saturday after explosions in a container full of chemicals. The cause of the fire could not be immediately determined. The depot is located near the country’s main Chittagong seaport, 216 kilometers (134 miles) southeast of the capital Dhaka.

Among the dead, according to Brig. Gene. Main Uddin, Director General of Bangladesh Fire and Civil Protection. More than 10 others were treated for burns, he added.

After the initial blast, multiple explosions took place as the fire continued to spread, Uddin said. Explosives experts from the Bangladeshi army have been called in to assist the firefighters. The explosions shattered the windows of nearby buildings and were felt up to 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away, officials and local media said.

The death toll reached 49 on Sunday night according to Ekattor TV station, and the area’s civil surgeon said the number could rise if the fire raged for a second night.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her shock at the accident and ordered adequate medical treatment for the injured.

Bangladesh has a history of industrial disasters, including factories catching fire with workers trapped inside. Control groups blame corruption and lax enforcement.

Global brands, which employ tens of thousands of low-paid workers in Bangladesh, have come under fire in recent years for improving factory conditions. In the country’s massive clothing industry, which employs about 4 million people, safety conditions have improved significantly following massive reforms, but experts say accidents can still happen if other sectors don’t make similar changes.

In 2012, about 117 workers died trapped behind closed doors at a garment factory in Dhaka.

The country’s worst industrial disaster occurred the following year, when the Rana Plaza clothing factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

In 2019, a fire tore through a 400-year-old area filled with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka, killing at least 67 people. Another fire in old Dhaka at a house where chemicals were illegally stored killed at least 123 people in 2010.

In 2021, a fire at a food and beverage factory outside Dhaka killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door.

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