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Bangladesh container depot fire leaves 49 dead, hundreds injured

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Dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured when a huge fire broke out at a container depot in Bangladesh over the weekend, authorities said. The death toll had reached 49 but was expected to rise with many of the injured in critical condition.

The cause of the blaze at the BM Inland Container Depot in Chittagong, about 130 miles southeast of capital, Dhaka, was not immediately clear. The company, which is jointly owned by business executives from the Netherlands and Bangladesh, did not respond to a request for comment Monday morning.

Fire officials suspect the blaze may have begun in a container of hydrogen peroxide and spread quickly to other containers, Reuters reported.

Bangladesh has a patchy industrial safety record, and fires are not uncommon. A flurry of tragedies a decade ago shined a spotlight on the country’s ready-made garment industry and the lax enforcement of safety rules. Exports, especially the garment industry, are the backbone of Bangladesh’s cash-strapped economy.

Although steps have been taken to improve the situation for the many thousands of factory workers, there were still more than 21,000 fire-related incidents in 2020, according to the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense.

At least 52 workers were killed last year in a fire at a food and beverage factory, which the International Labor Organization said highlighted the “urgent need” for authorities and building owners to ensure that workplaces are built and operated in compliance with national fire safety codes.

Fires in Bangladesh raise concerns over garment worker safety

Rescue workers including firefighters and police officers were among those killed in Saturday’s blaze, witnesses told Reuters. The fire triggered a huge explosion and rapidly spread, with chemical-filled containers combusting one after another.

Images from the scene showed upturned and burned-out containers and debris scattered over the ground as firefighters worked through Sunday to contain the blaze. Drone footage showed flames still smoldering across the container depot and thick smoke rising into the air.

Azad Majumdar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

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