Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- At least 111 apparel workers were killed and nearly 100 other wounded in a devastating fire that raged through a garment factory in Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, a police official said on Monday.
“The rescuers have retrieved 111 bodies when rescue operation was declared closed at around 2.40 pm (local time) on Sunday,” Muktar Hossain, deputy director of the industrial police, said, adding that adding that the rescuers retrieved nine bodies on Saturday and 102 on Sunday.
The fire broke out at the factory namely Tazreen Fashion Limited near Dhaka Export Processing Zone in Ashulia Saturday evening and quickly engulfed the ground and first floors of the eight- storey building causing the worst ever fire in the history of US$20 billion export-earner clothing industry.
The cause was not immediately known, but it is suspected that the blaze could be a result of a short circuit.
The factory manufactured different readymade garment (RMG) products including trousers, socks and sweaters for export to the United States and the European Union with poor workplace conditions and weak safety measures.
The garment industry is considering as the country’s largest foreign currency earner, contributing more than 16 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), nearly 80 percent of total export receipts, and providing direct employment to around 4.0 million people of which 80 percent are women.
Bangladesh’s low labour costs have helped it join the global supply chain for low-end clothing, manufacturing garments for international brands like Gap, Tesco, JC Penney , Wal-Mart, H&M, Kohl’s and Marks & Spencer.
There are 5,400 garment-making factories in Bangladesh, mostly located at Dhaka, Saver, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chittagong. Many of them are not properly equipped with emergency services.
Since 2006, more than 700 apparel workers have died in Bangladesh due to unsafe factory structure, which has already been included as an import compliance issue for establishing sustainable factory models in Bangladesh.
In Pakistan, over 300 apparel and footwear workers were killed in two factory fires in Karachi and Lahore in September last.
Meanwhile, the BGMEA has announced that it will provide BDT 100,000 to each of the death victim’s family.
President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Khaleda Zia expressed deep shock at the loss of lives in the fire incident in Savar.
BBN/SSR/AD-26Nov12-9:40 pm (BST)