A plume of smoke rises from an oil tanker that exploded yesterday morning at a ship-breaking yard in Sitakunda leaving at least four people dead. Photo: Zobaer Hossain Sikder
At least four workers were killed and 13 injured in an oil tanker explosion at a ship-breaking yard at Madam Bibir Hat in Sitakunda yesterday morning.
Fire service officials said casualties could rise, as some workers are feared trapped inside the decommissioned tanker at the yard named Rahim Steel.
Three of those dead were identified as Mohammad Selim, 25, of Barisal, Rana Babu, 22, of Bogra, and Rabiul, 22, of Naogaon. Name of the other could not yet be known.
Seven of the injured were identified as Nikhil, 25, Nazrul, 25, Raihan, 22, Nurul Alam, 26, Lutfur Rahman, 35, Saddam, 18, and Mintu, 35. They were undergoing treatment at a clinic in the port city.
Four others were admitted to Sitakunda upazila health complex.
For throughout the day, firefighters and locals struggled to douse the blaze raging through the freighter. Their efforts succeeded at around 8:00pm.
The ship was engulfed in flames in no time. The fire burned so strongly that it could be seen from a long distance, causing panic among people living nearby.
Abdus Sattar Selim, manager of Rahim Steel, claimed they had ensured the vessel was cleared of gases. Still, how the explosion occurred is beyond his comprehension.
Monirul Islam, officer-in-charge of Sitakunda Police Station, told The Daily Star, “Exactly how many have died and how many have been wounded could be known once the recovery drive ends.”
Eighteen workers were killed in various accidents at Sitakunda ship-breaking yards in 2006 and 2007, and 15 the following year, sources said.
The ship-breaking industry in Sitakunda is the world's second largest. Over 30,000 people work at some 70 yards there.
Most of the yards are running without environmental clearance. The working conditions there remain poor though the High Court earlier this year directed the government to ensure safety of the workers.