Friday, 19 August, 2022

Sitakunda Depot Fire

Probe report blames depot authorities, govt agencies

CHATTOGRAM: The probe committee formed to investigate the devastating fire at ‘BM Container Depot’ submitted its report, holding the depot authorities and government agencies concerned responsible for the accident.

The committee head, Chattogram Additional Divisional Commissioner Mizanur Rahman, handed over the report to the Chattogram Divisional Commissioner Ashraf Uddin in the presence of the media on Wednesday afternoon.

Other members of the 13-member committee, including Member Secretary Additional District Magistrate Sumana Akter, Additional Deputy Inspector General (Crime) Jakir Hossain Khan, Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) Director (Traffic) Enamul Karim, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Special Superintendent of Police (SSP) Shahnewaj Khaled, and Explosive Department Inspector Tafajjal Hossain, were present during the handover of the report.

The Divisional Commissioner, Ashraf Uddin, said they would send the report to the higher level of the government and take the next course of action following necessary directives from there.

He, however, refused to disclose details of the report, saying that they were yet to go through it.

Mizanur Rahman said they revealed causes and negligence during the investigation and put forward recommendations in the report.          They recorded the depositions of 24 people, including five injured workers who took part in the fire fighting effort in the beginning, the high officials of the depot and the chemical factory concerned, and representatives of the C & F and shipping line, among others.

"Reports regarding responsibilities were collected from six departments concerned, including CPA, Customs, Fire Service and Civil Defenec, Explosive Department, Department of Environment, and Explosive Department," he said.

The samples collected from the depots were examined at three laboratories. However, the CCTV footage of the depot couldn’t be found due to a lack of backup storage, said Mizanur.

They made a total of 20 recommendations to avoid the recurrence of such accidents in the future.

"We have recommended amending the ‘DG Cargo Act 1953’ in accordance with the IMDG Code," said the additional divisional commissioner.

The recommendations also include the the inclusion of a representative from each of the 25 departments which provide clearance and licence for operating an off-dock, he said.

A committee member preferring anonymity said the fire originated from the hydrogen peroxide kept inside containers for export.

The fire might have been sparked by excessive heat as the containers were kept lying at the depot for 40 days. Besides, the jerrycan carrying the chemical was also lacking the required certificate from the UN, he said.

A total of 25 containers out of a total of 37 carrying the chemical were damaged in the incident.

It is worth noting that the depot has been ravaged by fire and sporadic explosions from chemical containers since the night of June 4.The devastating fire claimed 50 lives, including at least 10 firefighters.

The remains of the last deceased were recovered from the depot on Wednesday.

The massive explosions rocked a four-square-kilometer area at that time.

Many depot workers said black smoke started billowing initially from a container. The depot staff and workers tried to douse the fire.

They called in firefighters after they failed to bring the fire under control.

At one stage of the operation by several hundred workers, staff, and firefighters, an explosion took place with a big bang from a container.

The blaze spread fast, engulfing the adjoining containers of hydrogen peroxide.

Later, sporadic explosions occurred at several containers, resulting in massive casualties.

The police filed a case accusing eight officials of the depot with Sitakunda police station in this connection.