At least 49 people were killed and over 450 injured in a massive fire and a series of explosions at a private chemical container depot in southeastern Bangladesh, officials said on Sunday, as authorities were still struggling to extinguish the blaze.
Reports added that the fire started late on Saturday at the depot in Sitakunda, which stores around 4,000 containers, many of them filled with garments destined for Western retailers. The facility is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the major southern port of Chittagong.
Reports added that the toll could rise further as many of the injured people were being treated with severe burns. At least nine fire fighters also lost their life in this blaze.
“The fire was caused by chemicals including hydrogen peroxide, making the situation difficult, fire service chief Brigadier General Mohammad Mainuddin told reporters at the scene where the firefighters were trying to extinguish the blaze amid intermittent explosions since Saturday evening.
The disaster prompted authorities to call out army sappers to prevent the spread of chemicals in nearby canals and the coastlines of the Bay of Bengal.
Chattogram Divisional Commissioner (DC) Ashraf Uddin said that families of the deceased would be given USD 560 (Taka 50,000) by the DC office, and USD 224 (Taka 20,000) would be given to the families of the injured, the Daily Star newspaper reported.
Bangladesh’s parliament, which met on its maiden budget session on Sunday, adopted a condolence motion over the tragedy.
(With inputs from media reports)