All those wounded in Saturday's deadly blaze at BM Container Depot in Chattogram Sitakundu have sustained chemical injuries, according to physicians, while many are in critical condition and at risk of visual impairment.
"The Sitakundu fire victims are different from other burn patients as they have both burns and chemical injuries with smoke inhalation," said Professor Md Abul Kalam, director of the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery (SHNIBPS) in the capital, which received several critical patients of the fire incident.
"The three factors made their condition worse. A person might have 10% burn injury, but he is suffering like those having 40% burns," he added.
Of the 15 patients taken to the Institute, three have been kept in intensive care units and one on life support, while the rest have been taken to the post-operative unit of the hospital. "None of them is out of risk," Dr Abul Kalam said.
As of Tuesday, some 63 wounded in the fire incidents, caused by a leakage of hydrogen peroxide, were at the Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH), with at least three of them in critical medical conditions while 11 remained at Parkview Hospital in the port city, with two in severe conditions.
"I have seen the patients at the hospital. All of them received chemical and fire hits on their eyes by any means. Some are at great risk," Professor Deen Mohammad Noorul Haq, former director-general of National Eye Care Bangladesh, told The Business Standard after a visit to the CMCH on Tuesday afternoon.
"We have recommended transferring 6 patients to Dhaka immediately for advanced treatment. The rest might also be sent in phases depending on their body conditions," he said, adding that despite the urgency, many could not be transferred right now because of their critical health conditions.
The senior doctor also urged those who leave hospitals after primary treatment to visit eye specialists without delay.
Saturday's fire, triggered by a series of chemical explosions, was brought under control on Tuesday, leaving at least 44, including 9 firefighters, dead and more than 250 wounded. It made the nearby areas look war-torn and foggy.
1% chance of Nurul Kader's survival
Nurul Kader, who was serving the mechanical department of the BM Container Depot, is now at the intensive care unit of Parkview Hospital in Chattogram after sustaining major burn injuries.
"Both eyes of my brother and his liver were completely damaged. He had a brain haemorrhage. Except for breathing, his body is completely inactive," his elder brother Ruhul Kader told TBS. "Doctors said he had only a 1% chance of remaining alive."
The brother said Nurul Kader was the only one educated in their family and had worked there for 10 years. "With the beginning of the fire, he called me on the phone and said we might meet again if he remained alive," lamented Ruhul Kader, saying that his brother was now in the last fight for survival.
Many of the wounded patients from the inferno in different hospitals are in critical health conditions like Nurul Kader.
None out of risk
The three critically wounded patients at the CMCH have 70% burn injuries and severe infections, while the tracheas of 14 others are severely damaged, noted Dr Liton Kumar Palit, assistant registrar at the burn unit of the hospital.
Two patients, among others, admitted at Parkview Hospital could lose their visual sense, according to Dr Rezaul Karim, managing director of the hospital. "One [Kader] has little chance of surviving."
Environment experts said the massive fire incident will have a negative health impact on local people as well.
"It is not clear yet whether there was hydrogen peroxide only. If there was the existence of other chemicals, the wounded must be handled with special care," said Mustafa Kamal Polash, a Bangladeshi weather and climate researcher at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
"People living in areas near the depot may suffer from different health complications due to the floating chemicals in the air," he told The Business Standard.