At least 15 dead in fire at Bangladesh container depot

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — A massive fire at a container depot near a port city in southeastern Bangladesh killed at least 38 people and injured more than 100 others, officials and local media reported Sunday, as firefighters struggled to get the blaze under control.

The fire at the BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, broke out around midnight Saturday following explosions in a container full of chemicals. It was not immediately possible to determine the cause of fire. The depot is located near country’s main Chittagong Seaport, 216 kilometers (134 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.

At least five firefighters were among the dead, according to Brig. According to Brig. Another 15 firefighters were being treated for burns, he added.

Multiple rounds of explosions occurred after the initial blast as the fire continued to spread, Uddin said. To assist firefighters, explosives experts from Bangladesh have been summoned. Officials and media reported that the explosions caused glass to burst in nearby buildings. They could be felt up to 4 km (2 1/2 miles) away.

Firefighters were still working to bring the fire under control on Sunday.

The death toll reached 38 by Sunday afternoon, according to Ekattor TV station, and the area’s civil surgeon said the number could still rise.

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

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

Global brands, which employ tens of thousands of low-paid workers in Bangladesh, have come under fire to improve factory conditions in recent years. Although safety standards have been improved in Bangladesh’s huge garment industry (which employs approximately 4 million workers), experts warn that accidents can still happen if the sector does not implement similar reforms.

In 2012, about 117 workers died when they were trapped behind locked exits in a garment factory in Dhaka.

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

In 2019, a blaze ripped through a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka and killed at least 67 people. Another fire in Old Dhaka in a house illegally storing chemicals 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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