At least 38 people were killed and hundreds were injured after a fire that triggered a huge chemical explosion and were still on fire on Sunday at a shipping container depot in Bangladesh, officials said.
It was anticipated that the toll would increase and that over 300 people were seriously injured.
Volunteers, some with only flip-flops on their feet, brought bodies from the smoking facility littered with wreckage, claiming there were more inside.
The fire started late Saturday at the huge depot in Sitakunda that was stocking about 4,000 containers, many of which were filled with clothing destined for Western retailers approximately 40 km from the main southern port of Chittagong.
Then containers containing chemicals exploded, gobbling up firefighters, journalists, and others in an inferno hurtling people and debris through the air, turning the night sky into a flaming orange and rattling buildings for miles.
Mujibur Rahman, the director of B.M. Container Depot, the company that operates the facility with approximately 600 workers, said the cause of the fire remains unknown.
The container depot kept hydrogen peroxide, chief of fire services, general Main Uddin told journalists. “We still couldn’t control the fire because of the presence of that chemical,” he said.
Mohammad Alauddin, head of the police, told AFP on Sunday that the death toll “increased to 38,” as firefighters continued to hose pockets of fire with pipes and as doctors in crowded hospitals attended to the wounded.
At least 40 firefighters and 10 police officers were wounded, according to Anwar Hossain, head of the Chittagong Regional Police.
At least five firefighters were fatally injured. “The number of deaths is expected to increase as some of the injured are in a critical state,” Hossain said.
There are still corpses in the places affected by the fire. I saw eight to ten bodies,” a volunteer told reporters.
I was standing in the warehouse. The explosion just threw me a couple of yards from where I was. My hands and legs are burned,’ said truck driver Tofael Ahmed.
Fires are frequent in Bangladesh due to the lax application of safety regulations.