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Dhaka Tribune

Sitakunda blast: No one arrested, compensation increased

Plant owners earlier paid Tk2 lakh for each deceased as per the Labour Law

Update : 10 Mar 2023, 11:34 PM

Seven people have died since a massive blast at Sheema Oxygen Plant in Chittagong's Sitakunda devastated the facility and the vicinity on March 4. 

Eighteen others are undergoing treatment at Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH).

Many others took treatment at private hospitals while around 50 residents in the Kadmarsul area are having hearing problems. More than 300 dwellings were damaged due to the blast, which was caused by pressure built up in the boiler.

Rokeya Begum, the wife of Abdul Kadir who died in the explosion, lodged the case two days after the incident with the Sitakunda police station, but the police have failed to arrest any of the 16 accused named in the case, claiming that they are on the run.

However, the accused are roaming freely: they appeared before the probe body and joined a meeting with the district administration in the last two days. 

“The accused are in hiding. We are trying our best to bring the accused under the law,” Sitakunda Model Police Station Inspector (Investigation) Abu Sayed said.

In the lawsuit, the factory owners -- three brothers Md Mamun Uddin, Parvez Hossain Sontu, and Md Ashraf Uddin Bappi -- as well as 13 officials and workers, were named as defendants. Among the three brothers in ownership, Mamun Uddin is the company managing director and the remaining are its directors.

The 13 others are Manager Abdul Alim, Operator-in-Charge Shamsuzzaman Shikder, Executive Director Md Kamal Uddin, officers Samiul and Shantanu Roy, and supervisors Idris Ali, Sanaullah, Siraj-ud-Daula, Rakibul, and Rajib, and operators Khurshid Alam, and Selim Jahan.  

In addition, unidentified Shema Oxygen Plant officials and employees who were irresponsible in their duties have been charged in the case.

The case has been recorded under sections 337, 338, 304, and 427 of the Penal Code for causing death due to negligence. The sections of the case are bailable and the highest sentence is 10 years imprisonment.

Compensation increased

Owners of the Seema Oxygen Plant agreed to increase compensation for the victims in mediation by the district administration. Masud Kamal, additional deputy commissioner (revenue), on Friday told Dhaka Tribune that the owners had initially fixed Tk200,000 as compensation for the deceased. 

During a meeting at the district administration office on Thursday afternoon, the owners were told that they must give Tk10 lakh for each dead, as followed in the case of BM Container Depot. 

The authorities set Tk5 lakh for individuals who have lost body parts and Tk2 lakh for those who sustained injuries. The owner agreed to the proposal and handed over a cheque to Sitakunda Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Shahadat Hossain.

The owners earlier paid Tk2 lakh for each deceased as per the Labour Law. They also provided Tk20,000 for the deceased's funeral. 

Operator-in-charge left office early

Shamsuzzaman Shikder, in-charge of operators at the plant on the day of the incident, left the workplace two and a half hours before the explosion to attend his daughter's wedding.

"Even though I was not there at the scene, I have been made accused. How can I be considered negligent? Pravesh Lal Sharma (deceased in the explosion) was engaged in the operation. I'm not sure what occurred after that,” he claimed.

Some officials said that Shamsuzzaman has over 30 years of experience in oxygen plant operations. He was in charge of the column, compressor, and separation sections. They said that had he been present on that day, the accident would not have occurred.

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