Accidents & Fires

Sitakunda Blast: Who started the fire?

CPA unable to find source, blames depot authorities for negligence
Ctg depot fire
Photo: Rajib Raihan

The probe committee formed by Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) to investigate the devastating fire and explosion at Sitakunda's BM Container Depot last month could not ascertain the source or specific reason behind the fire.

The probe report, however, found negligence on the depot authority's end in handling and preserving dangerous cargo, and the absence of a proper fire-fighting system, which increased the casualties.

Containers carrying dangerous substance like hydrogen peroxide were not kept separately or remotely in the depot, rather those were kept alongside containers carrying other export materials like textile items, said the report.

Stating that if the depot authority had immediately removed the container where smoke was first seen, the incident might not have been so severe, the report held the depot officials responsible for this.

The committee made four recommendations, including the formulation of special regulations on the management of dangerous cargo to avert such incidents in future.

Expressing suspicion that the incident could have been a sabotage, the committee also recommended for investigation by intelligence agencies.

A fire and subsequent explosion at the depot on June 4 killed 48 people and injured over a hundred.

The following day, CPA formed a three-member probe body -- led by CPA Terminal Manager Qudrat-e-Khuda -- to investigate the incident.

Six separate probe bodies had been formed by other government offices to probe the incident, while only the CPA-formed body has submitted its report so far.

The committee submitted its report last week. None of the committee members agreed to comment on their findings to this correspondent.

A reliable source confirmed that the committee in its report mentioned seven factors responsible for the incident.

According to the report, during the incident, there were 37 containers of hydrogen peroxide inside the depot sent by Al Razi Chemical Complex for export. They were being stored due to complexity in shipment.

The committee blamed Al Razi for not resending the containers to the factory timely, even after repeated requests from the shipping lines.

The probe committee also recommended modifying the existing inland container depot (ICD) policy of NBR by including specific terms regarding the management of dangerous cargo to ensure their safe storage.

Regarding fire safety measures, the report recommended that all 19 private ICDs need to sign MoUs with nearby fire service stations to arrange regular fire drills and training for the depot staff, so that they can fight any fire incident properly.

It also recommended keeping enough fire hydrants at all ICDs and banning cigarettes there.

The report suggested setting up digital connectivity among authorities of Chattogram port, Chattogram Customs House and private ICDs for proper coordination of import and export activities.


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