The BM Container Depot, the ground zero of the devastating fire that has claimed scores of lives, stores chemicals in containers as its normal business activity.
Among those stores are several blue jars. Some broken jars are labelled hydrogen peroxide, with the chemical formula H2O2.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, hydrogen peroxide is unstable, and nonflammable, but can support combustion as it generates a significant amount of oxygen when decomposing.
Firefighters believe the chemical may be responsible for the runaway inferno that started on Saturday night and has led to the deaths of at least 41.
Fire service officials say they were not told about the presence of chemicals in the depot and still do not have confirmation on what chemicals were used.
Anisur Rahman, deputy director of the Chattogram division fire service, said the officials of the private depot have yet to confirm the types of chemical agents that were stored inside. The fire service applied water to douse the fire initially, as it does on most occasions, he said.
“We definitely would have adopted a different approach if we had been told about the presence of chemical agents in the depot,” Anisur said.
The global standard protocol of dousing a chemical fire, commonly termed a class B fire, is to apply inorganic suppressant foams.
Reporters on the ground have spotted multiple plastic cans, commonly used for chemical storage, with a label of hydrogen peroxide in the area surrounding the depot.
Joint Secretary Md Naid Ali, currently serving as the chief explosives inspector of the Directorate of Explosives, a wing under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, said hydrogen peroxide is not registered as a combustible chemical agent by the directorate as of yet.
The labels also caution about the flammability of the chemical agent and say these cans belong to Al-Razi Chemical Complex Ltd.