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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

B'desh container blaze: 13 firemen killed due to incomplete info, wrong procedures

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By Sumi Khan
Dhaka, June 7 (Ajit Weekly News) The deaths of 13 fire fighters – the highest fatalities in a single fire incident – while tackling the blaze and explosions at the Sitakundu BM Container Depot, was due to the lack of proper information and also the wrong way of operating, officials said on Tuesday.

According to an official, 150 fire fighters were trained in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia on how to douse chemical fires and identifying chemicals in case of such a fire and have special equipment and chemical protection suits. Skilled fire fighters would not go so near a chemical fire, the official said.

The members of this team are stationed at the headquarters and divisional cities. As per the procedure, the fire fighters begin extinguishing the blaze if it is a normal fire. In the case of a chemical fire, the specially-trained hazmat (hazardous materials) unit would go with protective jackets.

But none of these 11 trained personnel of the hazmat unit in Agrabad, Chattogram went to Sitakunda industrial area or at Kumira Fire Station, the nearby fire station.

Twenty-two normal fire fighters were the first to respond to the fire that broke out in the depot in Chattogram and most of them never made it back.

The fire fighters who rushed to BM Container Depot in Sitakunda from two adjacent fire stations were not trained on extinguishing chemical fires. Officials, however, alleged the local fire fighters, without informing the hazmat team in Agrabad, began dousing the blaze considering it a normal fire, as they were not informed about chemical substances at the depot.

Hazmat team members only went there after seeing media reports on the explosion.

Fire Service officials told the press that they were not informed about chemicals being stored in the depot. If they had known that, they could have taken precautionary and responsive measures accordingly.

The loss and number of casualties could be lessened if such trained fire fighters, with hazmat suits, can be kept at fire stations near the factories, said the colleagues of the deceased fire fighters.

Besides, the Department of Explosives has mentioned that BM Container Depot did not have any license to store hydrogen peroxide. Local Department of Explosives Inspector Tofazzal Hossain said that special infrastructure is a must for storing such chemicals, but there was no such arrangement in the depot.

His department did not know the depot had such chemicals either – and now the depot owner has said that he himself did not know what type of chemicals were stored at his own institution.

However, rubbishing this, Fire Service’s Agrabad Branch Inspector Mahbub-e-Ilahi said: “The claim of the depot owner that he did not know which chemicals were stored at his own terminal does not make any sense. We have seen owners concealing information on previous fire incidents as well.”

–Ajit Weekly News

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