Before dying one of the workers alerted his family and the yard managers of the accident via his mobile phone. The families rushed to the yard, but found the gates locked.
“One of the survivors told me that he could have saved at least two of the workers if the yard had provided them with oxygen. Instead, the yard management wanted to hide the bodies,” said Ali Shahin. “The families, who had been alerted of the accident, finally managed to break the gates of the yard. But it was, unfortunately, too late to save the workers.”
Zakir Hossain, deputy inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Safeties of Shops and Establishments, told the newspaper, “Our inspector visited the factory and found the accident had occurred due to negligence. We will serve a notice on the owner.”
Shipbreaking involves the dismantling of old ships for scrap recycling of their steel and other equipment on board.
Around one million tonnes of steel are dismantled in Bangladeshi shipyards every year. The country’s shipbreaking industry provides direct and indirect employment for about 200,000 people.
“On top of this irreparable damage, we also face massive loss of marine life,” says Matin. “Fish are often seen floating up dead in the surrounding sea, and fresh water around the coastal areas of Sitakunda contains many toxic chemicals.”
Formalised in 2006, the industry had by 2012 allowed Bangladesh to recover an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of steel. At the same time, according to the study, thousands of tonnes of toxic substances such as asbestos, lead, waste oil and other chemicals were discharged into the soil and sea.