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Police hunt death blaze factory owner

Claims that workers were told alarm was only a fire drill

Police hunt death blaze factory owner
People gather around a mass grave for the funeral of dozens of unidentified victims reporter, Dhaka

November 27, 2012

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Police are hunting the owner of the factory in which 111 people died in a fire, after claims that workers were told by their managers that an alarm for the blaze was a fire drill.   

The blaze at the Tazreen factory in Dhaka on Saturday was the worst ever to hit Bangladesh's garment industry. Flags were flying at half mast yesterday and more than 4,500 garment factories across the country were closed today to remember the victims.   

Elsewhere, more than 1,000 workers took part in a second day of protests against a lack of adequate safety measures in factories.   

Police say they want to question Tazreen's owner, Delwar Hossain, over alleged violations of building rules and safety standards. Inspectors said the nine-story factory only had permission to operate on three floors.   

Dhaka police chief, Habibur Rahman, said investigators would also like him to a question him over allegations by survivors that they were not allowed to leave the building when the alarm was raised.

Managers told them that the alarm was a fire drill and that there was no need to panic, Rahman said.

While garment workers took to the streets, several labor rights organizations staged a similar protest outside the National Press Club.

“The blaze shows owners only think of profits, and not the interests of workers. The owners must be held responsible for this tragedy,” said Babul Akhter, president of Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation.

Several Western firms have said that Tazreen is one of their clothing suppliers. European chain C&A and US retail giant Walmart have both acknowledged some of their products were made there.

Other brands made there included ENYCE, owned by the US rapper Sean Combs - better known as Puff Daddy or P Diddy - according to Kalpona Akter, a labor activis.

Meanwhile, authorities were preparing a mass burial today for 54 victims, whose bodies were badly charred in the blaze.

DNA samples from each body are being stored at a state-run hospital and will be used later to identify the names of victims in order pay relatives compensation.

For the past few days Shahidul Alam, 26, has desperately searched for the body of his brother Mehedi Hasan, 22, whom he believes was among the workers being buried today.

“I’ve tried many times to identify my brother, but failed. The bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” he said.

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