A devastating fire at the Courier Cargo Building in Shahjalal International Airport yesterday burnt a large amount of packages, garment samples and other goods and electronic equipment.
No person was hurt in the blaze.
Fire fighters and courier service officials alleged that the fire might have originated from a welding work at the warehouse of a courier service company inside the building around 11:30am.
The exact cause of fire would be determined after an investigation, officials said.
Ten fire engines from the airport, air force and fire service and civil defence stations doused the blaze around 3:50pm, said fire service and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) officials.
Officials said they were yet to determine the extent of loss in the fire but some estimated that 70 percent of the goods in the building were gutted.
Flights schedules in the airport were not affected.
The Caab and fire service and civil defence authorities formed two committees to investigate the incident which happened at the sensitive part of the airport.
In the aftermath of the fire incident, the matter that appears in the forefront is the airport’s fire fighting unit’s delayed response and its lack of fire extinguishing equipment.
Question also arises how a courier service company, without taking sufficient precautionary measure, was carrying out the welding work at its warehouse in such a place packed with combustible items including chemicals.
A number of officials, who witnessed the incident, said the fire fighters saved the airport from a major disaster as they managed to stop the fire from spreading to the chemical warehouse inside the building by their frantic efforts.
“There were sparks during the welding work, and the fire was originated due to the spark or overheated wires of the welding machine. The welding machine operators soon fled, leaving the machine behind,” an official of a courier agency quoted a security guard, who witnessed the incident, as saying.
Police seized the welding machine from the warehouse.
An official of a law enforcement agency said they reached the spot three minutes after the fire broke out. They called the airport fire station officials over the phone but did not get any response.
Later, members of the law enforcement agency rushed to the station on feet and informed the fire fighters of the blaze.
Finally, two units from the airport fire station came to the spot around 10 minutes later after they were informed. But the units did not even have any ladder which could have helped them to douse the blaze.
The official, preferring not to be named, also said the fire fighters had to break down the wall of the building to spray water inside the warehouse as the person, who had keys of the main entrance, could not be found on the spot.
Civil Aviation Minister Faruk Khan visited the spot and ordered to form the probe committees. The Caab probe-body has been asked to submit its report within three days while the fire service committee was asked to submit its report soon.
However, no journalist was allowed to go inside the damaged warehouse during the minister’s visit.
Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defence Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan told The Daily Star that according to witnesses, welding work was going on inside the warehouse and that might have caused the fire.
There were no fire extinguishers inside the building, though there were some outside it but those were not sufficient in number, he said, adding that goods were kept in a much unplanned way inside the building.
At present, 43 air mail and courier service companies use the courier cargo building as the warehouse for incoming goods, said International Air Express Association general secretary Bashir A K Chowdhury.
Only some emergency parcels are dispatched on Friday, he said.
Asked about compensation against any damaged goods, Bashir, also the executive director of FedEx, said the courier companies will have to pay compensation to the shippers.
As per the rules, usually $100 will have to be paid to the shippers for items not declared as having any commercial value whereas items which have been declared as having any commercial value will get additional $1 for per kg, he added.
The building at the import cargo complex is the property of Caab which the Biman authority had hired and sublet its spaces to different international courier services.
A Biman press release said the building was being managed by the courier service companies.