Ctg Container Depot Fire: Owners’ negligence, lax monitoring to blame
Sheer negligence of the owners of BM Container Depot Ltd and lax monitoring and enforcement of laws by the government authorities concerned led to the fatal blast at the Sitakunda depot on June 4, a probe has found.
The blast, which triggered a massive fire, happened in one of the hydrogen peroxide-laden containers stored in the open along with others, violating related rules and regulations, it revealed.
The investigation committee, formed by the Chattogram divisional commissioner's office, submitted its 19-page report to Chattogram Divisional Commissioner Md Ashraf Uddin yesterday.
The committee, led by Chattogram Additional Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, attached 300 pages and official documents to the report. The pages contained eyewitness' statements.
The probe body has also made 20 recommendations, including amending several rules and regulations on depot operations, monitoring and management, to avoid recurrence of such incidents.
At least 51 people, including 10 firefighters, were killed and more than 250 injured in the blast.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Mizanur yesterday said they submitted the report with 20 recommendations so that such an incident did not recur.
"The owners of the depot and the monitoring departments concerned are responsible for the incident. They cannot abdicate their responsibilities," he said.
Wishing anonymity, a probe committee member said, "We had to study a lot during the investigation as the related laws did not clearly mention which authorities would deal with the safety management and monitoring of the container depot.
"Also, the laws do not specify who will monitor the compliance of IMDG [International Maritime Dangerous Goods] code. We faced some problems when we launched the investigation as no authorities would take the responsibilities for enforcing the related rules."
He said the investigation identified some vital issues, including the no mention in the rules about who would monitor the safety issues.
Another committee member, who preferred to be unnamed, said the probe found poor monitoring of the container depot by the Chittagong Port Authority.
"The name of hydrogen peroxide is not on the explosives department's list of explosives, but it is listed as a hazardous explosive in the rules of Department of Environment," he told The Daily Star.
The depot had stored at least 27 containers of hydrogen peroxide.
The committee member said they have sent letters to six government departments concerned, including the Chittagong Port Authority, Chittagong Customs, and the DoE, asking them to inform the probe body about their roles in maintaining compliance with related rules in the last one year.
Mizanur said, "We have recommended updating some laws and rules of different departments, including the Chittagong Port Authority."
He hoped that the risk of such a deadly blast would reduce if the committee's recommendations were implemented.
HUMAN REMAINS FOUND
More human remains, including a skull and bones, were found in the debris at BM Container Depot yesterday.
With this, the death toll from the incident increased by one and rose to 51, police said.
"A human skull and bones were found in the warehouse shed area around 10:15am when staffers of the depot were cleaning the area," Ashraful Karim, additional superintendent (Sitakunda Circle) of Chattogram police, told The Daily Star.
Police later sent the remains to Chattogram Medical College morgue.
Eight officials of the container depot were sued by Sitakunda police for negligence, but no charges were brought against the owners.