At least seven people were killed and 10 others injured in a gas explosion at Patharghata in Chattogram on Sunday morning.
Women and children were among the victims who were walking to work or school as the explosion took place causing a wall to collapse on them.
Six of the deceased were identified.
They were Anny Barua, 41, a school teacher, Nurul Islam, 31, a wage labourer, Farzana, 30, a housewife, her son Atikur Rahman, 8, Mohammad Selim, 40, a rickshaw-van puller, and Mohammad Sukkur, 50, a rickshaw puller.
The identity of one dead could not be confirmed.
The injured were Arpita Nath,13, Sandhya Nath,49, Dorin Trisha Gomez, 23,Yusuf, 40, Ismail, 30, Abdul Hamid, 42, Mohammad Arif, 22, and Nazir Ahmed, 29.
Authorities formed three probe bodies to find the reason behind the explosion.
Sandhya Nath said that the explosion occurred right after she struck a matchstick as she prepared for prayer at about 9:00am in her ground floor residence in a building on the Brickfield Road.
She was admitted to the casualty unit of Chittagong Medical College Hospital with broken bones and burn injuries.
The room where Sandhya lit her matchstick was close to her kitchen and there was a gas riser near the kitchen wall.
City additional deputy commissioner Abdur Rouf suspected that leaked gas turned Sandhya’s room into a bomb and it exploded as soon as she struck the matchstick.
Rouf said that people would need to wait until investigation was over to learn for sure what actually caused the explosion.
Chattogram Fire Service and Civil Defence Deputy Director Jasim Uddin echoed what Rouf suspected.
He said that the explosion left the ground and first floors of the five-story building heavily damaged.
He pointed out that the gas pipeline of the Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited was very old.
The explosion may have occurred due to high pressure of gas in the line, he added.
The adjacent building was also partially damaged, said Jasim.
Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited managing director Khaiz Ahmed Majumdar said that there was no problem in their pipeline but still an inquiry was ordered.
The Chattogram Development Authority said that the building where the accident occurred was constructed in violation of existing building codes.
The CDA also suspected that gas leakage might be behind the explosion.
Monzur was selling tea at his roadside tea stall just like any other day when the explosion rocked the area.
Wage labourer Nurul Islam had come there for a cup of tea.
The tea stall was crushed under the roadside wall of the building immediately after the explosion and Nurul was killed on the spot.
Monzur, however, was lucky to be rescued.
‘The explosion has ruined everything literally in a matter of seconds,’ said Monzur.
Palash Barua, husband of Anny Barua, head teacher at Patiya Meherhati Government Primary School, said that her wife was on her way to school when the explosion occurred.
‘She was waiting by the building wall for one of her colleagues to join her in a few moments,’ said Palash.
Anny was crushed under the collapsed wall.
Wailing filled the air in the corridor of the Chattogram Medical College Hospital as lawyer Ataur Rahman was mourning the death of his wife and their son in the explosion.
‘How did I lose everything in just seconds?’ he kept asking the question to no one in particular.
After dropping their younger son Atifur Rahman at his school, Ataur’s wife Farzana had returned home and then was taking their elder son Atikur Rahman to his private tutor.
The wall collapsed on the mother and the son as soon as they came out of their home and hit the street.
The explosion also damaged five nearby shops.
Kotwali Police Station’s officer-in-charge Mohammad Mohsin said that the explosion occurred at about 9:00 am.
Chattogram Medical College Hospital police outpost›s assistant sub-inspector Alauddin Talukder said that the deceased include four males, two females and a child.
He said that the injured were being treated for orthopaedic and burn injuries.
One of the injured, Arpita Nath, was referred to the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital as her condition worsened, with 45 percent of her body burnt.
Arpita, Sandhya’s niece, was in another room at the time of the explosion.
Chattogram Development Authority chief Engineer Shahinul Islam said that the owners did not leave any free space between buildings though there should have been 40-feet distance between them.
He said that the owners blocked roads to get more space and built septic tanks on the road.
He said that toxic gas generated in septic tanks could trigger the explosion as well but it needed to be investigated to know if that was the case.
Chattogram City Corporation mayor AJM Nasir Uddin and Chattogram Deputy Commissioner Elius Hossain said that they would bear the treatment expenses of the injured.
They said that each of the deceased’s families would get Tk 20,000 in compensation.
The district administration has already formed a five-member committee, headed by additional district magistrate AZM Shariful Hossain, to investigate the incident with a seven-day deadline.
The CCC mayor also promised a separate investigation into the incident.
On Sunday afternoon the CMCH released four bodies to their families.
Meanwhile, Chattogram Metropolitan Police formed a three-member committee with deputy commissioner (south) Mehedi Hasan as its head.
The committee has been asked to submit its report as soon as possible.
Jasim said that fire fighters evacuated people from the affected building and the adjacent building as both the buildings became very risky and vulnerable after the gas explosion.
After visiting the spot, explosives department inspector Taffazzal Hossain said that the gas riser had become old and it could be a reason behind the gas leak.
‘The gas pipe line was not wrapped by rubber. We assume that the gas leaked from the pipe line and was trapped inside the room,’ he said.
However, Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited general manager (marketing) ANM Salah said that no evidence of gas pipeline leak was found at the house.
He said that the gas oven and the gas riser were fine.
The KGDCL formed another four-member probe committee with general manager (engineering and services) Sarwar Hossain as its head.