Firefighters arrive after a fire broke out at a container storage facility in Sitakunda, Chittagong, Bangladesh. AFP
The death toll from a fire and explosion at a container depot in Bangladesh hit 34 on Sunday and was expected to rise further with more than 300 people injured, the chief regional doctor said.
"The death toll from the fire has risen to 34," Elias Chowdhury, chief doctor of the Chittagong region in southern Bangladesh, told AFP as firefighters continued to battle the blaze. "More than 300 people are injured."
The fire at the BM Inland Container Depot, a Dutch-Bangladesh joint venture, broke out around midnight Saturday following explosions in a container full of chemicals. The cause of the fire could not be immediately determined. The depot is located in Chittagong, 216 kilometres (134 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.
At least five firefighters were among the dead, according to Brig. Gen. Main Uddin, director general of the Bangladesh fire service and civil defense. Another 15 firefighters were being treated for burn injuries, he added.
Multiple rounds of explosions occurred after the initial blast as the fire continued to spread, Uddin said. Explosives experts from Bangladesh's military have been called in to assist the firefighters. The explosions shattered the windows of nearby buildings and were felt as far as 4 kilometers away, officials and local media reports said.
Firefighters were still working to put out the fire on Sunday morning, said fire service official Faruk Hossain Shikder. The explosion shook the neighbourhood and shattered glasses of windows of nearby houses, local residents said.
An injured victim is brought to a hospital at Sitakund, near the port city Chittagong, Bangladesh, on Sunday. Reuters
The death toll could rise as some of the injured are in critical condition, said Chittagong civil surgeon Mohammed Elias Hossain. The injured included firefighters and policemen, he said.
He urged all doctors in the district to help tackle the situation and called for emergency blood donations.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze. Fire service officials said they suspect it may have originated from a container of hydrogen peroxide and spread quickly to other containers.
In 2020, three people were killed after an oil tank exploded at a container depot in Chittagong's Patenga area.