Bangladesh: Sitakunda BM Container Depot Inferno: As If You’re Inhaling Your Death

Firefighters and others killed in a fire at the BM Container Depot in Sitakunda, Chittagong, were buried at their village home. When the body reached the village, a mournful atmosphere was created. 

by Anwar A. Khan

It’s like there’s fog across the whole world of Bangladesh. “But of the killing of a man, who is a man as we are, there is nothing good that remains.” – Anselmo.

The Sonaichhari area of Sitakunda in Chittagong, Bangladesh has come to a standstill due to the horrific explosion and fire at the BM container depot. There is a burning smell in the air. Although four days have passed since this horrific incident betided on the night of 4 June, 2022, the residents of the area adjacent to the BM container depot are living in a state of mental trauma. 

The people of Sonaichhari area of Sitakunda were preparing to sleep after eating dinner like other normal days. The clock strikes exactly 11 o'clock. At that time there was a loud explosion in the BM container depot. The blast shook the area for several kilometers. Then the burnt people rushed to the whole area. The environment of a wide area became heavy due to their wailing. That terrible night is mentioned in the statements of the eyewitnesses, whom they have compared with the hour.

Matiur Rahman, a 56-year-old resident of the area, spoke to a Daily in Bangla. He could not speak normally. Saying, “I have never witnessed such a horrible incident in my life. After the explosion, people's limbs and brains fell a few hundred meters away. Even broken pieces weighing 40 to 50 kg fell on people's houses. When I remember the incident of that day, my body still shuddered. I can't get those scenes out of my head.”

Describing the incident of that day, Nazim Uddin, a resident of Keshabpur area, said, "I was preparing to sleep after eating rice at night. At that time the whole area trembled with a loud noise. The doors and windows of the house broke with a loud noise. Then I panicked and left the house with the other members of my family.”

The epicenter was reported below the ground, however; no tsunami alert was issued. The epicenter was reported below the ground, however; Hossain Bhutto. According to him, “I got the news of the fire at the depot and stood on the balcony. Suddenly there was a loud explosion in the depot. At that time, it seemed that there was a 10-magnitude earthquake.”  

The wholedepot building has fallen on my body. 'Saleha Begum of Alauddin's house near BM Depot said, “Everyone was running around after the blast. Some were rolling on the ground in pain. Some of the burn victims were trying to save their lives by jumping into the pond again. Then it seemed that I was witnessing the hour.”

Selim said, "I came out of the house immediately after the explosion and saw the screams of burnt people. The bodies of all the burn victims are covered in white. Many have no arms, no legs. Even then they are running and running to save lives. I can't express in words what a terrible environment it was. I don't want to face such a hostile environment anymore.”

BM Container Depot CFS Supervisor Emran Hossain said, "The depot's alarm went off around 9:30 pm. Feeling we have 'Run out of gas' emotionally. However, one after other explosions were taking place after 11 pm. At that time no security equipment was working. We have had a catastrophic night. I have never seen such a scene in my life.”

The fire has been now brought under control.The smoke from the fire was coming out of the container depot till 9 am yesterday. Fire service personnel are trying their best to control the fire. Army and police personnel are stationed at the spot.

It is learned that some containers on the west side of the depot are on fire. Moreover, smoke is coming out from a few more containers in the vicinity. Members of the fire service are spraying water on these containers from above with the help of special devices. Twelve fire service vehicles are working to put out the fire. When one car runs out of water, another is being sent. A police team is stationed in front of the main gate of the depot. There is strict security.

The fire service staff continued to make strenuous efforts. The rescue operation could not be started by entering all the sheds of the depot. Smoke was coming out of there.

Sitakunda Police Station Officer-in-Charge (Investigation) Sumon Banik, who was present at the spot, said the fire was burning. Not yet fully under control. The smoke is rising. It is learned that a horrific container explosion took place at BM Depot at Sitakunda in Chittagong around 9 pm last Saturday.

Nearly fifty people were killed and about five hundred were injured. Containers are exploding repeatedly due to chemical explosions in the event of a horrific explosion. Due to the intensity of the fire, the fire service personnel could not get close at first.

The chemical explosion at the BM Container Depot in Sitakunda will have a devastating effect on the environment and the human body. Experts fear short-term and long-term damage as well as mutilation. They say it is a matter of great concern that the BM container depot has not been able to determine what kind of chemical was present along with hydrogen peroxide.

However, it is important to take immediate action considering the severity and type of the chemical. Jahangirnagar University Professor of Environmental Sciences Masura Shammi said, "We still do not know what kind of chemicals were in the depot other than hydrogen peroxide. Depot authorities should disclose it as soon as possible. Then action can be taken accordingly.”

He added: "Hydrogen peroxide alone does not explode. The way the depot exploded and caught fire over a long period of time suggests that there must have been some other chemical presence. In this case, if there is the presence of ammonium nitrate, the consequences will be really terrible. The world is aware of the Lebanese ammonium nitrate explosion.

The presence of something like hydrogen chloride or petroleum is also deadly. However, hydrogen peroxide alone is sufficient to have adverse effects on the environment and public health. It will have a big impact on the human respiratory system. Entering the human body with oxygen will cause sores in the lungs. In addition, the waste will mix with water or rain to make the soil acidic, which can adversely affect agriculture. At the same time, it will have a negative impact on biodiversity. 

Saidur Rahman Chowdhury, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at the University of Chittagong, said, “Therefore, those engaged in firefighting must work carefully. Because if some chemicals fall into the sea, it can create a terrible situation. Therefore, it is necessary to take necessary steps to protect the sea.”

Abu Naser Khan, chairman of the Save the Environment Movement, told news media that those who are involved in the process, be it stockpiling, exporting or importing chemicals, cannot avoid this responsibility. Because if the protocol had been obeyed, such a horrible explosion would not have taken place. Of course, there was a lack of supervision.

“They should be subjected to exemplary punishment subject to proper investigation” he said. We do not yet know if there were any more chemicals. Therefore, appropriate action should be taken after speedy investigation. Otherwise, the waste is likely to mix with soil and water and have a detrimental effect on public health.

After Nimtali and Chawkbazar, Banani, now Sitakunda. We are in a lot of troubles. Is human life so trivial? Now we can hear that the depot did not have any license for stockpiling or processing chemicals. So, what have those who were in charge of supervising it done for so long? Whoever is guilty, everyone should be subjected to exemplary punishment. 

Firefighters and others killed in a fire at the BM Container Depot in Sitakunda, Chittagong, were buried at their village home. When the body reached the village, a mournful atmosphere was created. 

Somewhere some wereburied, somewhere some are waiting for the corpses.

Hasina, one of the victims of the chemical blast at Sitakunda in Chittagong, is on life support at the National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery. Four are in the ICU, while the condition of the other 12 is critical, hospital authorities said.

The director of the Burn Institute, Professor. Abul Kalam Azad said, “Four of those admitted are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). One of them has been placed on life support. The condition of the rest is also alarming. A 10-member medical board has been formed to treat the patients. Besides, doctors from Dhaka Medical came and saw them, said Abul Kalam Azad.

A three-member expert team led by Dr. Samanta Lal Sen visited the victims. Samanta Lal Sen said, "We have identified the three. They should be taken to Dhaka. Will be taken if relatives agree. They need a burn ICU. "

The number of fire service stations across the country has doubled in the last 10 years, but firefighting capacity has not increased. Meanwhile, a project to modernize the fire service in the next 10 years has been pending in the Ministry of Home Affairs for a long time.

“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myselfIn dark woods, the right road lost.” These famous lines, narrated by famed Italian writer Dante Alighieri, open Inferno and immediately establish the allegorical plane on which the story’s meaning unfolds.

-The End –

The writer is an independent political analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh,who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.