If Sitakunda tragedy has a redeeming feature, it is the volunteers
Even as it continues to churn out stories of heartbreaks, lost love and missed chances, the BM Container Depot blast in Sitakunda is already one of the worst tragedies in recent history. So far, at least 49 people have lost their lives, and more than 450 have been injured. As we mourn these unfortunate deaths and pray for the grieving families, we feel equally angered by the irresponsibility and recklessness that has caused such devastation.
Many things had to go wrong for a tragedy of this scale to occur. We're told that safety measures mandatory for storing chemicals in a depot were not followed. There were no caution signs, for example, so fire-fighters trying to douse the flames did not realise that they were standing right next to dangerous containers that would end up exploding and claiming the lives of nine fire-fighters – the highest from a single event in our country's history. There were many such irregularities at the site that only made things worse.
But perhaps, all things considered and as we try to look ahead, this tragedy does have a silver lining, which comes from the bravery and selfless services of not only the first responders, but of ordinary people as well. Nurses and doctors from all over Chattogram reportedly flocked to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) to provide their services, even in the middle of the night. Many of them showed up of their own volition, because they felt they had to come to the rescue of the victims. They helped, and continue to do so, in handling their treatment and other responsibilities.
Then there were the students and random people who showed up to donate blood to the victims, and help distribute medicine and food to victims and their families. They were motivated by humanitarian reasons, which shows the true character of this nation in the face of tragedies. The number of student and non-student groups that participated – and still are – in the effort to heal the deep wounds inflicted by this catastrophe is truly inspiring. It provides the one thing that this country needs going forward: hope.
So while we call on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and hold those responsible accountable, and make sure that meaningful measures are taken so that such a calamity never befalls this nation again, we salute the first responders – fire-fighters, army personnel and policemen – medical professionals, and ordinary citizens who have all made us proud even when the whole country has been in mourning. It is these gestures, big and small, of humanity that show the way even in the darkest of moments.