More than 120 dead and scores injured after fire rips through clothing factory in clothing
British clothing retailers have come under renewed pressure from anti-sweatshop campaigners after a fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh killed at least 120.
Dozens of charred bodies were found in the clothing Fashions building in Ashulia, just outside the capital Dhaka, in what is the worst such blaze the country has ever seen.
Fire service officials said workers, who were mostly women, were unable to escape because there were not enough emergency exits. Some leapt to their deaths from windows. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
Tough task: A firefighter tries to control the fire at a garment factory in Savar, outskirts of Dhaka
The firm’s customers include Hong Kong trading group Li & Fung, the world’s largest consumer brands supplier, which a third of UK retailers use.
It is not clear if clothes made in the factory were sold in British stores, but pressure groups campaigning against sweatshops called for all companies that buy from Bangladesh including Tesco and H&M to learn the lessons.
By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department Operations Director Maj. Mohammad Mahbub said, though the death toll could rise as crews search the charred debris.
Another further 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear. Mr Mahbub said the fire broke out on the ground floor, which is used as a warehouse, and spread quickly to the upper floors.
Horror: At least nine people are thought to have died at the clothing factory fire in Bangladesh
Tragic: Firefighters try to control a fire in a garment factory in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka
‘The factory had three staircases, and all of them were down through the ground floor,’ he said. ‘So the workers could not come out when the fire engulfed the building.
‘Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower.’
Bangladesh has around 4,500 garment factories that make clothes for brands including Tesco, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl’s and Carrefour. Few of the factories take proper safety precautions.
Readymade garments make up 80 percent of the country’s $24 billion annual exports.
Fire Department Control Room Official Mohammad Ali said firefighters were trying to douse the flames racing through the factory operated by Tazreen Fashion.
Hoping and praying: Colleagues stand beside Asma, a garment worker, who was injured in the devastating fire
Scene: Over 100 people were killed as a fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions Limited
Mr Mahbub said firefighters recovered 69 bodies from the second floor of the factory alone. He said most of the victims had been trapped inside the factory, located just outside of Dhaka, with no emergency exits leading outside the building.
Many workers who had taken shelter on the roof of the factory were rescued, but firefighters were unable to save those who were trapped within.
Army soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed to help police keep the situation under control as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered at the scene, Mahbub said.
He would not say how many people were still missing.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her shock at the loss of a huge number of lives in the blaze and asked authorities to properly conduct rescue operations.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the apex body of the garment sector, said the association would stand by the victims’ families.