26 killed as boiler blast engulf Tongi factory

Boiler blast at Tongi factory
Local people join fire services to try extinguishing fire at a factory in Tongi, Gazipur today. Photo: Business Mail

At least 26 people were killed and more than 70 others injured in an industrial boiler blast at a plastic and aluminium foil printing and packaging factory in Gazipur this morning.

“We have so far confirmation that 23 people were killed,” State Minister for Health Zahid Malik told journalists at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) in the afternoon. “We have ensured treatment for the injured ones. The government will bear the medical expenses.”

The boiler exploded with a big bang at the ground floor of the 4-story factory building of Tampaco Foils Limited at Tongi BSCIC industrial area at around 5:50 am today, witnesses and factory workers said.

boiler blast at Tongi factory
Fire fighters and local people trying to move up the upstairs of the ill-fated building to control fire at the Tongi factory today. Photo: Business Mail

A fire broke out immediately, as a result, and the flame rapidly engulfed the entire building. A portion of the factory building also collapsed, according to a spot account.

The factory used to run three shifts a day and the incident took place just before changing the shift at 6 am when many workers already entered into their workplace and many others were preparing to leave. Some 100-120 people work in a shift.

Edon Mia, a worker who entered into the factory at around 5:45 pm to join his 6 am shift, said it was a boiler explosion. He managed to escape the factory.

According to different hospitals, 19 bodies were sent to Tongi Hospital – 12 were identified as Abdul Hannan and Jahangir Alom, two security guards of the factory, and Sankar Sarker, Rafiqul Islam, Shubhash Chandra Shaha, Anisur Rahman, Idris Ali, Rezwan Ahmed, Ismail Hossain, Anwar Hossain, Mamun, and Rashed Mia.

Thirty four workers were burnt and sent to the DMCH and around 40 admitted to the Tongi Government Hospital in Tongi.

A police officer at the DMCH police camp said 25 injured workers were taken to the hospital, but seven of them, including a woman, died here. The ill-fated ones were Ashik, Tahmina Akhter, Anwar Hossain, Delwar Hossain and Wahiduzzaman.

Two of the injured – Ripon Das and Dilip Das – were being treated at the burn unit of the DMCH and the others at the casualty department.

Dr Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health, said three burn victims succumbed to their injuries at DMCH while several others were in critical condition. He said around 35 people had left Tongi hospital after receiving first aid.

boiler blast at Tongi factory
A portion of the factory building collapses perhaps due to the boiler blast with a big bang and impact of fire. Photo: Business Mail

Fire Service and Civil Defence officials would not, however, say anything about the reason of the blast before investigation. They, however, said he building collapse would be the impact of the explosion and the fire.

Two probe committees were formed to investigate into the incident – one 5-member body by the fire service headed by one of its deputy director and another 5-member body by the deputy commissioner of Gazipur headed by an executive magistrate. They have been asked to report within 15 days.

Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) also formed another three-member committee to investigate into the incident and report within seven working days, said a press release.

It would be the biggest industrial accident in Bangladesh since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 that left around 1,100 people killed.

boiler blast at Tongi factory
Aluminium foil paper rolls seen damaged due to the fire at a Tongi factory today. Photo: Business Mail

Twenty five units of fire fighters were struggling to extinguish the factory fire, but could not bring under control and enter into the building in 12 hours till 6:00 pm to check whether there were more people trapped inside the building.

The top floor of the factory building was filled with containers of chemical substances used as production inputs, witnesses said.

The packaging factory is owned by Mokbul Hossain, a resident of Sylhet. The owner and the executives of the factory were not available for comments.

boiler blast at Tongi factory
Nearby buildings were stated to be in danger due to the impact of the Tongi factory fire. Photo: Business Mail

Labour Minister Mujibul Haque Chunnu and Gazipur sadar lawmaker Zahid Ahsan Rasel visited the spot around noon. IGP Shahidul Hoque and other senior police officers also visited the scene.

Director of Labour (Joint Secretary) SM Ashrafuzzaman told reporters at the DMCH that families of the deceased workers would get Tk200,000 and the injured ones maximum Tk100,000 each as grants from the labour welfare fund.

Dhaka Divisional Commissioner Helal Uddin said the families of the deceased will be given Tk20,000 each for funeral and the injured will get Tk10,000 each from the district administration for treatment.

He said the dead workers’ families will receive Tk100,000 each.

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