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    Bangladesh depot accused over blast that killed at least 49

    SITAKUNDA, BANGLADESH (AFP) – Bangladesh authorities accused a container depot operator yesterday of not telling firefighters about a chemical stockpile before it exploded with devastating consequences, killing at least 49 people – nine of them from the fire service.

    The toll from the giant blast, which followed a fire at the B M Container Depot in Sitakunda and sent fireballs into the sky, was expected to rise further.

    Some containers were still smouldering yesterday, over 36 hours after the explosion, preventing rescuers from checking the area around them for victims.

    Around a dozen of the 300 injured were in critical condition, and were flown to the capital Dhaka.

    The nine dead firefighters were the most the department has ever lost in a single incident in the industrial-accident-prone country. Two more firefighters are among several people still missing, officials said.

    Firefighters try to extinguish a fire that broke out at a shipping container storage facility in Sitakunda. PHOTO: AFP

    “Never in the history of the fire department, have so many firefighters died,” said Purnachandra Mutsuddi, who led the fire-fighting effort at the 26-acre facility on Saturday night.

    “How do you feel when you recover your brothers? No event is as painful as this.” The depot “didn’t have any fire safety plan”, he told AFP, and it did not inform the firefighters about the chemicals, specifically hydrogen peroxide, stored on site.

    “If they did, the casualties would have been much less,” he said.

    The B M Container Depot in Sitakunda, an industrial town 40 kilometres from Chittagong Port, is a joint venture between Bangladeshi and Dutch businessmen with around 600 employees, and began operations in 2012.

    Police have yet to lay charges over the fire.

    “Our investigation is going on. We will look into everything,” said local Police Chief Abul Kalam Azad.

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