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Overview of a chemical explosion in Bangladesh: Hundreds of casualties, serious damage to the supply chain


U&I Logistics - Chemical explosion at BM inland container depot in Bangladesh caused a fierce fire. On the evening of June 4, the fire broke out and began to burn everything, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds. Hundreds of firefighters were mobilized to put out the fire, and the army's explosives experts were called in to assist the fire brigade.

Tragedy and loss after a terrible explosion

The inferno at the BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, broke out around midnight June 4 following explosions in a container full of chemicals. The cause of the fire could not be immediately determined, killing at least 49 people — nine of them from the fire service and more than 100 injured people.

Multiple rounds of explosions occurred after the initial blast as the fire continued to spread. Explosives experts from Bangladesh's military have been called in to assist the firefighters. The explosions shattered the windows of nearby buildings and were felt as far as 4 kilometers away, officials and local media reports said.

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

Chittagong fire station assistant director Purnachandra Mutsuddi said that the depot "didn't have any fire safety plan" and the depot did not inform the firefighters about the chemicals, specifically hydrogen peroxide, stored on site. "If they did inform us, the casualties would have been much less," he said.


Authorities said firefighters would have "never thrown water" on the fire had they known about the chemicals

The toll from the blast is expected to rise because more than a dozen of the 300 people injured are in critical condition and officials continue to search for others who are missing, including two more firefighters. 

Some containers were still smouldering, more than 36 hours after the explosion, preventing rescuers from checking the area around them for victims.

In Chittagong, hundreds of relatives of the missing and the dead queued at a hospital to give DNA samples in an effort to identify the victims because most of those killed were burned beyond recognition.

“Fireballs” were falling like rain

Wisps of smoke rose into the bright morning sky from dozens of containers at the depot. "Some 30 to 40 containers are still smouldering," fire department inspector Harunur Rashid said. "The fire is under control but the chemicals are the main problem".

Firefighters are doing their best to put out the fire

Mujibur Rahman, a director of BM Container Depot, said the cause of the initial fire remained unknown. Witnesses said the entire town shook when the cache of hydrogen peroxide exploded.

"The explosion sent fireballs into the sky and it was falling like rain”, Mohammad Ali, who runs a nearby grocery store, said. "We were so afraid we immediately left our home to find refuge," he added. "We thought the fire would spread to our locality as it is very densely populated."

Elias Chowdhury, the chief doctor in Chittagong, said doctors at multiple hospitals had been called back from holidays to help treat the hundreds of injured.

About 90% of Bangladesh's trade — including clothes for H&M, Walmart and others — passes through the Chittagong port at the top of the Bay of Bengal. Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said hundreds of millions of dollars worth of garments were destroyed in the fire.

"It is a huge loss for the industry," he said.

U&I Logistics