The firefighters continued their efforts for the third consecutive day today to douse completely the devastating container depot fire that killed around 41 people and wounded scores others while the government warned that stern actions would be taken if anyone found guilty in the investigations.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and State Minister for Disaster and Relief Enamul Haque visited the fire-ravaged depot today, reports BSS.
“Investigation are going on, punitive measures will be taken if anyone is found responsible for the fire at BM Container Depot in Chattogram's Sitakunda,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told journalists after visiting the deport site and Chattagram Medical College Hospital today.
Information minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said, “Efforts are on to investigate whether there was an attempt to create sabotage act or an anarchic situation in the country before inauguration of mega Padma Bridge, dreams of millions .”
After visiting the affected site a BSS journalist said that the entire depot site on 21 acres of land now “looks like a war ravaged zone”. Smokes were found emitting from the BM Container Depot in Sitakunda, the outskirts of the port city , he added.
Meanwhile, initial investigations unearthed that the depot near the southeastern port city of Chattogram lacked the minimal safety equipment.
“Our firefighters are still working to extinguish completely the fire and prevent the blaze, visibly originated from chemical containers,” a fire brigade spokesman Anisur Rahman told journalists.
Official investigations are underway with authorities constituting separate committees to probe the tragedy but the fire brigade official said their initial observations found the depot had minimal safety equipment like hydrants.
Fire officials alleged that the management of the container facility did not inform rescuers about the chemicals, which could have saved many lives including several those of firefighters.
"The large depot actually had no fire safety plan," a fire official said, adding that containers with flammable chemicals were kept with those full of export-bound garment products while it was an utmost necessity to take extra caution for chemical containers.
Earlier, military experts joined the firefighters of the Department of Fire Service and Civil Defense to douse the fire. A rescuer said they detected four “unexploded containers” of dangerous chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, forcing rescuers to proceed with extreme caution.
“The presence of chemicals made it difficult for us too risky to work close by,” he told journalists.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Chattogram has revised the death toll from BM Container Depot fire to 41.
Earlier, the media reports mentioned the death toll as 49,
The information booth of the DC office today confirmed that 41 people died from the fire and revised the notice board accordingly.
Among the deceased, 25 have so far been identified, it said.
Firefighter sources said no new body was found today as searches were underway alongside dousing the fire while the firefighters were able to stop the intermittent explosions which were rocking the area until late yesterday.
But many of the people who were wounded in the fire and explosions were in critical condition as the fire burnt their breathing systems or vital body parts up to 70 percent.
Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) accommodated most of the wounded people followed by a combined military hospital (CMH) in the port city.
But 16 of the burn injured people were brought to Dhaka, several of them in army helicopters, for better treatment.
Bangladesh’s leading burn wound specialist Dr Samanta Lal, who is now in the port city, said “We have decided to send three more patients to Sheikh Hasina Burn Institute in Dhaka”.
Chattogram district administration officials, meanwhile, said 22 bodies were handed over to their relatives but several others appeared unrecognizable but works were underway for their DNA test.
“It will take some time to perform the DNA testing to know their identity . . . we expect the process to be completed in next one month,” an official of police’s CID branch in the port city said.
He said CID was entrusted with the task of collecting samples to be tested in their lab while relatives of missing people started giving their DNA samples.
Bangladesh’s fire service and civil defense department suffered the worst disaster itself losing their nine firefighters in the line of duty.
“Nothing can be more painful than this . . . it was so difficult for me to carry them (firefighters) on my shoulders, those that I have seen like my own sons, worked with them," said an elderly fire official at the scene.
The BM Container Depot is a joint venture of Bangladeshi and Dutch businessmen and began operations in 2012.