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Bangladesh’s container depot fire; norms violated in cargo handling at Chittagong port

Industrial accidents are common in Bangladesh. Experts blame poor safety standards and lack of enforcement of norms and regulations. Garments factories, which account for the country’s most exports and employ over 4 million workers, often see deadly fire incidents.

Jun 06, 2022
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By Monday morning, nearly 50 people, including nine firefighters, were declared confirmed dead and over 100 injured in the massive fire at a container port in the southeastern part of Bangladesh, a country infamous for deadly fire incidents due to its poor industrial safety record. Initial reports suggest standard safety norms separating the dangerous cargos from others were violated.

BM Inland Container Depot near the country’s main Chittagong Seaport seaport caught fire on Saturday evening. While the initial cause of the deadly fire is yet to be ascertained, the spread of the fire was caused by the hydrogen peroxide containers stored near garment containers— a violation of the country's Dangerous Cargo Act-1953.

The act says that shipping companies, ports, and container depots should store and ship chemicals like hydrogen peroxide separate from other goods. Besides, there should be multiple caution signs, reported The Daily Mirror.

Industrial accidents are common in Bangladesh. Experts blame poor safety standards and lack of enforcement of norms and regulations. Garments factories, which account for the country’s most exports and employ over 4 million workers, often see deadly fire incidents.

In 2012, a fire in the garment factory in the capital Dhaka resulted in the death of 112 workers. Similarly, 123 people were killed in 2010 when a chemical storage warehouse caught fire. In 2013, in the country’s worst industrial disaster, over 1100 workers were killed when the building of a garment factory collapsed in the capital city.

On Sunday, nine fighters were killed while dousing the fire as they weren’t aware of the location of chemical containers that caused a series of subsequent explosions after the initial fire.
 
The Daily Mirror reported that firefighters working at the site said they saw no such safety measures there and customs records showed around 240 tonnes of hydrogen peroxide were stored in 16 containers near garment containers.

Shahidul Islam, senior station officer at Agrabad Fire Service and Civil Defence, said, "Foam should have been used to extinguish the fire on chemicals. But the water was being sprayed as there was no indication that there were chemicals in those containers. There was no warning sticker on any of the containers.

(SAM)

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