17 October 2011

Toxic Gas Incident at Ship scrapping yard - 4 Die

Four Bangladeshi workers have died and two others fallen ill after inhaling toxic gases as they were dismantling a ship at a breaking yard in Baro Aulia of Sitakunda in Chittagong, police report.

Six workers were inside of a scrapped ship at the Chittagong yard on Sunday evening when all 6 fell unconscious, according to senior police official Nur Muhammad Bepari. The workers were taken to the Chittagong Medical college hospital immediately but doctors declared four of them dead on arrival. 2 remain under medical treatment, but are alive.  Fellow workers who transported the men to the hospital told The Daily Star that the men probably encountered a CO2 gas leak.

Bepari told BBC that they are investigating the incident and will be filing a case. He added that the families of the victims are not willing to register complaints, as they fear they will not receive compensation.

The accident-prone Chittagong yard has seen many deaths due to inadequate safety standards and follows an incident this month where two other laborers were killed. Many vessels, according to environmentalists, are dumped in Bangladesh containing hazardous materials, dangerous gases, and asbestos due to low regulation.

Environmental lawyers say that shipbreaking yards continue to violate rules by importing ageing vessels without pre-cleaning or removal of toxic gases.

Shipbreakers continue to push safety to wayside, despite recent efforts to ban the import of ships for breaking, but since the $1.5billion scrap industry provides vital jobs and infrastructural needs to the country, the bill was overturned.

Bangledeshi lawyer, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, told BBC that as long as these violations go ignored, and safety is not enforced, these accidents will continue to happen.

It is estimated that 80 workers have died, and hundreds injured, in shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh since 2006.

Source: Maritime Executive. 17 October 2011

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