Firefighters rush to put out a fire as soon as they hear of it. No matter how big or small the fire. One such incident occurred on 4 June around 9:30pm, propelling 32 firefighters from Sitakunda and Kumira stations on a mission to douse a fire at the BM Container Depot in Sonaichhari Union, Sitakunda.
According to information given by the depot authorities, they went with routine preparations to put out a small fire. Shortly after 10:30 pm, there was a loud explosion on site scattering everyone within seconds, leaving the firefighters absolutely helpless amidst the carnage.
They have surely never faced such horror in the history of the Fire Service and Civil Defense. Twelve firefighters went missing, 21 others are injured, and 15 are undergoing treatment in hospital. Of them, two are in critical condition. Till Tuesday (7 June), 9 bodies were recovered. The shadow of death has descended on both stations in the industrial area which are now completely hollow and empty.
Ten hours after the fire broke out on Sunday (5 June) morning, Brigadier General Md Main Uddin, director general of the Department of Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD) rushed to the spot.
"In my entire career, we have never lost so many workers on one mission. We had to bear such a profound loss due to lack of information on the extent of the fire," he said in mourning.
Shafiqul Islam, station officer of Chittagong Agrabad Fire Service Station, who took part in the rescue operation in the second phase after the blast, shared his experience with The Business Standard.
"I have been in this job for 6 years now. Over the course of that, I have taken part in extinguishing more than 350 fires, big and small, in Chittagong. But this is the first time I have had to stand idle and watched a fire burn. Our hands were tied because there were chemicals inside the container. It was not possible to approach any further and even flooding with water was not working. "
According to the control room of the fire service, some 24 people including a senior station officer, two leaders, 16 firefighters, and five drivers, were working at Sitakunda station. Of them, 17 took part in the operation that night. Five people have gone missing in the blast but only three bodies have been recovered so far. Two more are still missing and six more people are receiving treatment for their injuries.
Of the 22 firefighting professionals working at Kumira station, 15 people took part in the operation. Seven people went missing in the blast while six bodies have been recovered so far. Another one is still missing. Seven others are under treatment.
Chittagong Divisional Deputy Director of the station, Anisur Rahman, said, "Two of our units took part in the rescue operation after the fire incident. All the rescue workers were hurt and two vehicles were destroyed in the blast. There were chemicals in the container, but we did not have this information and the two stations that took part in the early stage of the operation now have no manpower left. We had to bring in more workers from other stations to join the mission. "
On Saturday (4 June), a deadly fire broke out at the BM Container Depot in Sitakunda. Due to the presence of chemical substances in the container which are flammable in nature, there was a series of devastating explosions which claimed the lives of many workers and firefighters. So far, 43 people, including nine firefighters, have been confirmed dead in the incident. More than two hundred people were injured.
About 65 hours after the blaze broke out, the Bangladesh Army has finally declared the scene risk-free.