The 22-year-old firefighter had moved away to increase the water pressure, when the explosion shook the city.

He then rushed to join his comrades in the brigade where the horror of the shredded bodies awaited him.

Three other members of his brigade have been confirmed dead, two are missing and there is little hope of finding them alive.

Seven others seriously injured were evacuated to the best burns hospital in the country, in Dhaka, the capital.

“I will never forget it, until my death”, confides Mr. Bappy to AFP, still trembling at the memory of the infernal scene, “all these colleagues, left before my eyes. We were full of energy to work, but when I found them dead, I don’t know how to express it…”

“Allah has granted me a second life,” he adds, surprised to have been spared.

The fire broke out on Saturday around 9:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT) in a depot housing some 4,000 containers in Sitakunda, about forty kilometers from the major port of Chittagong, in the south-east of the country.

– “the most fortunate” –

In Bangladesh, firefighters are ill-equipped and poorly paid compared to some private jobs or the military, who can leave for lucrative UN peacekeeping missions.

They start at $200 a month, but for rural families, a job in the public sector is the best way out of poverty.

Employees receive regular salary increases and pensions for themselves and their spouses.

The only child of a farming family in the Mymensingh district in the north of the country, Mr. Bappy became a firefighter after winning a competition attended by tens of thousands of candidates. He saw himself as “the luckiest” in his village.

“For my parents and I, it was our proudest moment,” he says. “I was happy because I knew I could serve the nation.”

– “my best friends” –

Posted to Kumira in the Chittagong district three years ago, he then befriended Moniruzzaman and Mohammad Rana Mia, like him, new recruits to his brigade. Both lost their lives in the explosion.

“They were my best friends, we were more than family,” Mr Bappy continues, “we worked so many nights together. We were from the same background. I know how tragic their deaths are for their poor families. “.

More than 40 people died, including at least nine firefighters, in the disaster.

“Never in the history of the fire department have so many firefighters been killed,” Purnachandra Mutsuddi, deputy director of the Chittagong fire station who was leading operations on Saturday, told AFP. is more painful than losing brothers”.

– No security plan –

The 10.5-hectare site “had no fire safety plan”, he added, regretting that the depot authorities had “not informed them of the presence of the chemicals”. including hydrogen peroxide, dangerously stored among containers full of clothing.

“If they had done so, the number of victims would have been much lower,” he said.

Because “there are rules for storing hydrogen peroxide”, he said, “if we had known, we would never have used water. We would never have entered with our vehicle in the deposit”.

Unaware of the presence of hydrogen peroxide, his crews fought the flames with water which no doubt caused a fatal chemical reaction, he explained.

According to local press, Kumira firefighters were neither trained nor equipped to deal with a fire involving chemicals.

Firefighter Riad Hossain, in a support brigade on the evening of the fire, remembers, in tears, talking with Mohammad Rana Mia shortly before the distress call from the depot where he was going to die. “I can’t believe they’re not here anymore.”