Blast at Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard injures 8 workers

A gas cylinder exploded on Sunday at a shipbreaking yard, owned by Shital Enterprise, located in Sitakunda Upazila, the Chittagong district of Bangladesh, injuring eight workers at the site who were preparing for work.

The workers are reported to be in critical condition, according to local media.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform told World Maritime News that the accident has been confirmed by the organization’s local colleagues and trade unions.

The explosion is said to have been caused by a leak from a gas cylinder that burst into flames after one of the workers lit up a cigarette in the enclosed area filled with gas, violating safety procedures. Other reports indicate that the fire erupted amid workers’ attempts to light up the gas-filled area.

“The recent explosion at Shitol Enterprises, which seriously injured eight workers, is one of many fatal and severe accidents that have already occurred this year in the Chittagong shipbreaking yards. Explosions of gas cylinders happen very frequently and are a sign of both substandard safety measures and a lack of training of workers who are unaware of hazards and proper procedures,”  the Platform’s Executive Director Patrizia Heidegger said in a statement to World Maritime News.

“Often, accident also involve children and young workers – whose presence in the yards is illegal under Bangladeshi and international law. I am wondering how many more accidents we have to document before the authorities decide to hold a yard manager accountable for putting peoples’ lives in danger – and for how long European ship owners still want to profit from this dirty business?,” the statement adds.

The blast comes in less than two weeks from another blast reported in August, when one worker died and two were injured in a gas pipeline explosion at a ship breaking yard in the Chittagong district. The workers were cutting iron sheets inside the yard on August 25, when a gas cylinder burst and exploded.

The shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh are notorious for their lack of adhering to proper safety regulations as workers at majority of shipbreaking yards in the country are not equipped with the necessary safety gear resulting in various types of accidents, often fatal.

Between April and July 2015, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform documented at least six fatal accidents in the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh. 

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