(Written by Tarek Mahmud)
6 September 2015 - Eight workers were critically injured yesterday when a gas cylinder of a scrapped ship exploded at a ship-breaking yard in Chittagong.
The explosion, believed to have been caused by a leak in the gas cylinder, took
place at the Shital Enterprise scrap yard in Sonaichhari union in Chittagong’s Sitakunda upazila.
Five workers – Al Amin, 30, Nadim, 30, Moklesul, 30, Shahjahan, 40, and Khokon 25 – were admitted to the Burn and Plastic Surgery unit at Chittagong Medical College Hospital in critical condition.
Another three injured workers – Abdul Mannan, 24, Abdur Rouf, 25, and Kamal Pasha, 32 – were admitted to the city’s Al-Amin Private Hospital, police said.
Sitakunda Model Police Station Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Saidul Islam said the blast occurred when the workers entered the room of a scrap vessel around 7:30am.
The explosion took place when workers lit a fire to light up the space, police said after visiting the site. Due to a leak in a scrap cylinder, gas had filled up the room.
Anwarul Islam, administrative officer of the yard, refuted this account and said the workers lit a cigarette, setting off the combustible gas, adding that the workers had not followed established safety procedures.
ASP Saidul said a case was being filed with Sitakunda Model Police Station.
Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), a non-government organisation, says at least 128 workers have been killed and many others injured in industrial accidents, since 2005.
A report from December 2005 titled “The Human Cost of Breaking Ships” published simultaneously in Bangladesh, India and Switzerland said at least 1,000 workers had died in the preceding 20 years in Bangladesh’s ship-breaking yards.
YPSA Programme Officer Muhammed Ali Shahin said: “Most of the workers in the ship-breaking yards are recruited by contractors from poverty-stricken areas and are easy victims of exploitation by yard owners.”
“This sad accident shows the clear lack of safety measures in the industry,” added Shahin, coordinator in Bangladesh of Shipbreaking Platform – a Brussels based coalition of environmental, human rights and labour rights organizations working for safe and clean ship recycling worldwide.
The Supreme Court directed the government to formulate a set of rules by December 14, 2011, to free the ship-breaking industry from pollution and to ensure the safety of workers.
The ship-breaking industry boomed in the country in the 1980s. By the middle 1990s, Bangladesh ranked second in the world in ship breaking by tonnage scrapped.
At present, 52 percent of all large ships are scrapped in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association says there are 40 ship-breaking yards run by about 165 companies currently in operation on a 25km strip of Sitakunda upazila in Chittagong.
Some two million tonnes of large oil tankers, cargo and passenger vessels are dismantled every year in Bangladesh.
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