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Protests and probe after 111 die in fire

Fury over garment factory blaze

Protests and probe after 111 die in fire
Firefighters put out flames in the 9-story Tazreen Fashion garment factory in Savar yesterday (photo by AFP)

Published: November 26, 2012 03:38 AM GMT

Updated: November 25, 2012 09:49 PM GMT

Thousands of angry workers protested in Dhaka today, demanding justice and better protection after a blaze at a garment factory over the weekend left at least 111 workers dead and hundreds injured.

The protesters damaged vehicles, smashed several factory windows and blocked roads around the industrial zone where the fire took place in Dhaka's Ashulia district.

It took firefighters more than 17 hours to put out the blaze at the Tazreen Fashion factory which began late on Saturday night. Rescue workers recovered 100 bodies from the factory while 11 others died in hospital after jumping from the eight-story building.

“It was difficult to control the fire because of cotton and yarn stocks. We think the fire originated from an electrical short-circuit,” said fire brigade spokesman Abdul Matin.

Matin added that casualties were high because the factory had poor safety measures. “Moreover, the approach road to the factory was narrow, so it took more time for us to reach the scene,” Matin said.

Some workers claimed many exits were locked so they jumped from windows and the rooftop.  

The government has formed a four-member commitee that includes Home Ministry, police and fire officials. It has been told to submit a report within 15 days.

At least 53 bodies have been handed over to the families of victims, while unidentifiable bodies are being kept in Dhaka Medical College hospital pending DNA testing and identification.

The factory employed 1,700 workers and is a sister company of Tuba Group, which makes clothes for international brands like Wal-Mart, C&A, Carrefour and IKEA. Its factories export garments to the US, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands among other countries.

No factory representative was available for comment.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock and promised all necessary support for victims’ families and treatment for the injured. The country will observe a day of mourning tomorrow and all garment factories will be closed. 

The Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a major trade body, said it would offer 100,000 taka (US$1,220) to each victim’s family and bear the treatment costs for the injured workers.

Raziuddin Ahmed, the Minister of Labor and Employment, declared an additional 10 million taka (US$121,951) compensation package for dead and injured victims’ families.

Deadly factory fires are not uncommon in Bangladesh’s garment industry which has notoriously poor safety standards. Since 2006, about 500 workers have died in fires in the country, says Amsterdam-based advocacy group Clean Clothes Campaign.

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