At least 38 people died and hundreds were injured after a fire that sparked a huge chemical explosion and was still blazing on Sunday (June 5) at a shipping container depot in Bangladesh, officials said.
The toll was expected to rise with some of the more than 300 people injured in a serious condition.
Volunteers, some with only flip-flops on their feet, brought bodies from the smouldering, wreckage-strewn facility, saying there were more inside
The fire started late on Saturday at the huge depot in Sitakunda storing around 4,000 containers, many of them filled with garments destined for Western retailers, about 40 kilometres from the major southern port of Chittagong.
Then containers holding chemicals exploded, engulfing firefighters, journalists and others in an inferno, hurtling people and debris through the air, turning the night sky a blazing orange and rattling buildings kilometres away.
Firefighters were still working to put out the fire on Sunday morning, said fire service official Faruk Hossain Shikder.
The explosion shook the neighbourhood and shattered glasses of windows of nearby houses, local residents said.
The death toll could rise as some of the injured are in critical condition, said Chittagong civil surgeon Mohammed Elias Hossain.
Mr Mujibur Rahman, the director of B.M. Container Depot, the firm operating the facility with around 600 workers, said that the cause of the fire was still unknown.
The container depot held hydrogen peroxide, fire service chief Brigadier General Main Uddin told reporters.
“We still could not control the fire because of the existence of this chemical,” he said.
Police official Mohammad Alauddin told AFP on Sunday that the death toll “has risen to 38”, as firefighters continued to douse pockets of fire with hoses and as doctors in packed hospitals treated the injured.
At least 40 firefighters and 10 police officers were hurt, Chittagong regional police chief Anwar Hossain told AFP.
At least five firefighters were among those killed.
“The number of fatalities is expected to rise as some of the injured are in critical condition,” Mr Hossain said.
“These people – including several journalists who were doing Facebook lives – are still not accounted for,” Mr Elias Chowdhury, regional chief doctor, told AFP.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.
Fire service officials said they suspect it may have originated from a container of hydrogen peroxide and spread quickly to other containers.
In 2020, three people were killed after an oil tank exploded at a container depot in Chittagong’s Patenga area.