Rescue efforts continue for second day after deadly oxygen plant blast

The death toll from the blast at Sheema Oxygen Plant rose to 6

Published : 5 March 2023, 05:58 AM
Updated : 5 March 2023, 05:58 AM

Fire service workers have continued rescue operations for the second day after a deadly blast at Sheema Group’s oxygen plant in Chattogram’s Sitakunda killed at least six people on Saturday.

The second day’s rescue work started at 6 am on Sunday, said Abdul Hamid Mia, a deputy assistant director at the fire service.

Sheema Oxygen Plant, which produced oxygen for industrial use, is located in the Kadam Rasul area of Sonaichhari near the Dhaka-Chattogam highway. The massive explosion rocked the area around 4:30 pm on Saturday, officials said.

The explosion was so intense that it flung heavy metal debris as far as 500 yards, killing a man sitting in a firewood and charcoal shop. Rescuers pulled out the bodies of five other victims from the factory.

At least 20 others are undergoing treatment for injuries.

The oxygen plant was located in an overcrowded area which has eight to 10 steel mills, oil refineries, other factories, and houses on both sides of a narrow road.

The blast completely damaged the oxygen plant and heavily damaged the nearby buildings as well. The factories closed after the explosion.

Fire service official Hamid Mia said, “Last year the blast at Chattogram’s BM Depot happened after a fire broke out. Initially, we believe that a fire started here after the blast. “

Tofazzal Hossain, an explosives inspector in Chattogram, said, “The reason behind the explosion is not yet clear. Details will be disclosed after a meeting at the deputy commissioner’s office.”

Sheema Group sells the oxygen and acetylene from the plant mainly to the shipbreaking yards of Sitakunda.

The founder of the group, Mohammad Shafi, started his business with a shipbreaking yard – S Trading.

His son Mamun Uddin is the managing director now. Mamun’s brothers Ashraf Uddin and Parvez Uddin are also involved in the family business.

Sheema Group used the gas from the plant in its steel mill – Sheema Auto Re-rolling Mills Ltd, with the brand name SARM.

Mamun Uddin could not be reached for comment over the mobile phone. Abul Bashar Mohammed Fakhruzzaman, the deputy commissioner of Chattogram district, also said on Saturday that they couldn’t find anyone who is involved with the plant at the site after the blast.

“This place was used for refilling cylinders. The cause of the blast cannot be confirmed now. We’ve formed a committee to investigate that,” he told reporters.