Two workers have been killed and several others severely injured after a fire broke out on the former crude oil tanker Bunga Kelana 4, which was beached and being dismantled at the Mahinur Ship Breaking yard.
Flames spread from abandoned waste oil close to the engine room towards an area where workers were torch-cutting steel parts, resulting in a massive explosion.
Mohammod Rubel, a 25-year-old steel cutter, died on the way to hospital, and the body of his co-worker, Hamidul Islam, was found inside the ship several hours after the explosion.
Five other workers, all aged between 19-30, suffered severe burn injuries and are being treated at Chattogram Medical College Hospital.
Local reports say that a number of workers remain unaccounted for.
Video footage of the aftermath of the incident shows that there was no organised emergency response to help the injured – and barefoot workers without personal protective equipment can be seen carrying away the injured men.
“It is high time Bangladesh regulated its ship breaking sector and put a halt to the systematic violations of labour and environmental protection laws,” says Ingvild Jenssen, director of the lobby group, NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
“This latest tragic explosion adds to the shipping industry’s appalling toll on human lives and should act as a wake-up call for the financiers and customers of shipping to demand recycling practices off the beach and in line with the standards set by international waste laws and labour conventions.”