At least two workers died and another required medical attention allegedly after being exposed to toxic gases while manually dismantling a scrap ship at a shipbreaking yard in Chattogram's Sitakunda upazila yesterday.
The deceased are Nironjon Das, 65, and Suman Das, 48. Both of them were from Jhalakathi and worked at Khawaja Shipbreaking Limited, police said, adding that another person was injured in the incident that took place in Madambibir Hat area around 12:30pm.
However, neither police nor the authorities could give any detail about the injured person and where he was receiving treatment.
The ship, MT West Energy, a 1976 LPG tanker owned by a Hong Kong-based company, was brought by Khawaja Shipbreaking Limited, a sister concern of Kabir Steel Re-Rolling Mills (KSRM), in 2018.
Porimol Chandra Nath, manager of the yard, told The Daily Star that toxic gases emanated when the workers were drilling a hole at a compartment of the ship.
As the two workers fell unconscious, they were taken to Chattogram Medical College Hospital where doctors declared them dead, he said.
Asked if the workers were equipped with proper safety gears, the manager replied in the positive.
But when asked how the workers could expose to the poisonous gases if they were in protective gears, he abruptly hung up the phone.
Karim Ahmed, deputy managing director of the yard, also refused to make any comment in this regard, when contacted.
Tofazzol Hossen, director of Explosive Department, Chattogram said the accident might have happened due to the sudden emission of hydrogen sulfide gas.
The authorities could clean out the compartment by using shallow machines instead of doing it manually, he said, adding that their negligence led to the deaths.
A K M Shamsul Arefin, additional secretary of the industries ministry, told this newspaper that they had suspended all kinds of operation at the yard until further notice.
"We formed a committee which will inspect the yard and submit a report. We will take further action based on the report.
According toYoung Power Social Action (YPSA), an NGO working for the safety and security of shipbreaking workers, eight workers died in the line of duty at this shipyard in the last three years.
Mohammad Ali Shahin, a coordinator of YPSA, said being a business conglomerate, KSRM must be more careful about its workers' lives.