At least 25 people were killed and over 70 injured, many critically, in a huge fire triggered by a boiler explosion at a packaging factory in Bangladesh today, in one of the worst industrial accidents in the country since 2013 when a building collapse claimed more than 1,100 lives.
The fire broke out following a boiler explosion at the four-storey Tempako Packaging Factory this morning in Tongi industrial area, north of Dhaka, said Gazipur Fire Service and Civil Defence Deputy Assistant Director Akhtaruzzaman.
The blast was so powerful that a part of the building collapsed as the blaze – aided by strong winds – razed until afternoon despite frantic efforts by firefighters to contain it.
About 100 people were inside the food and cigarette packaging unit when the explosion occurred and the fire spread quickly because of flammable chemicals stored in the building.
“A part of the building collapsed and we fear some people could be trapped inside,” a fire department official said.
The workers at the factory were to go on leave for a weeklong holiday for Eid festival after their work today.
“The Eid is ruined for our family,” a wailing mid-aged woman whose husband died in the accident told a TV channel.
Most of the 25 victims died at the scene while others succumbed to their injuries at the state-run Dhaka Medical Collage Hospital and other healthcare facilities in the area.
Officials said the dead bodies were at a Tongi hospital, DMCH and at the Adhunik Medical College Hospital near Dhaka.
Thirty people with burn injuries have been admitted to DMCH, 10 to Kurmitola Hospital, said a residential physician.
Ten, with critical burn wounds, were fighting for life. Twenty five units of firefighters were deployed to douse the fire. Flames and smoke were seen billowing out of the factory for six hours after the fire started.
“We have launched investigation… the persons responsible for the accident, the owner of the factory in particular, will face stern legal action,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.
A five-member probe body headed by Gazipur Executive Magistrate Rehanul Islam has been formed to look into the incident, Gazipur Deputy Commissioner SM Alam said.
Low-cost manufacturing is the mainstay in Bangladesh, one of the world’s top garment exporters with a USD 27-billion industry. But a series of industrial disasters in recent years have raised questions about its safety standards.
Tighter controls have been introduced, but dozens of workers still die every year.
At least 13 people died in a fire at a plastics factory in Dhaka last year. In 2012, 112 workers died in a fire at a factory just outside the capital.
The country suffered an even greater tragedy in 2013 when the Rana Plaza garment complex collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing 1,135 people, after another clothing factory building collapsed, trapping over 3,000 workers.