A worsening toll was feared, with eyewitnesses reporting several bodies not yet recovered from the private warehouse, located about 40 kilometers from the major port of Chittagong in the southeast of the country.

The fire broke out on Saturday around 9:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT). Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene to extinguish it but, an hour after the outbreak of the disaster, several containers of chemical products exploded, said the fire services.

“The death toll from the fire has risen to 34,” Elias Chowdhury, the region’s top health official, told AFP. “More than 300 people are injured,” he continued.

According to him, several people are still missing, including journalists who covered the fire live.

“There are still bodies in the places affected by the fire. I saw eight or ten corpses,” a rescue worker told the media.

Among the injured are 40 firefighters and 10 police officers, Chittagong Regional Police Chief Anwar Hossain said.

According to him, “the number of deaths is expected to increase because some of the injured are in critical condition”.

The gigantic explosion shook buildings several kilometers away, witnesses said.

“A cylinder flew about half a kilometer from the scene of the fire to land in our small pond,” said Mohgammad Ali, a 60-year-old grocer.

– Fireballs –

“The explosion sent balls of fire into the sky. Balls of fire that fell like rain. We were so scared that we immediately fled,” he added.

“The explosion threw me about ten meters from where I was. My hands and legs are burned,” said Tofael Ahmed, a truck driver who was in the warehouse.

The deposit contained hydrogen peroxide, a chemical with multiple industrial uses, Fire Chief Brigadier General Main Uddin told reporters.

“We have still not been able to bring the fire under control due to the existence of this chemical,” he added.

The depot employed about 600 people, said its director, Mujibur Rahman, who said he did not know the origin of the fire.

Mominur Rahman, the chief administrator of the Chittagong district, announced the opening of an investigation.

He also told AFP that around 200 soldiers have been called in to help, in particular to prevent chemicals from spilling into the sea.

Rahman said the depot also contained clothes worth millions of dollars that were to be exported to Western countries.

About 90% of Bangladesh’s approximately $100 billion in annual trade passes through Chittagong.

This major port has been experiencing a resurgence of activity since the end of last year thanks to the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

Fires are frequent in Bangladesh, where safety standards are poorly respected.

In July 2021, 54 people died in a fire at a gigantic food processing plant outside the capital, Dhaka.

And in February 2020, 70 people died in another fire that ravaged several apartment buildings in Dhaka.