Renewing safety concerns in the Asian country, a factory fire late Tuesday at the Aswad Knit Composite factory in Sripur, near the capital Dhaka, killed at least seven people and injured dozens of others. The cause of the fire, which began in the knitting unit and later spread to three other buildings in the compound, is unknown, although Bangladeshi officials are investigating. Most of the factory's 3,000 employees had already gone home for the night before the fire broke out.
"This latest fire to affect the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh reflects the sad and shocking truth that not enough is being done to address the safety and health of garment factory workers," said Guy Ryder, the International Labour Organization's director-general, in a statement.
The Sripur fire comes about six months after a Bangladesh factory collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. Since then, human rights groups have demanded Bangladesh's government, its factory owners and the Western companies that manufacture or source from Bangladesh improve working conditions there. Most recently, thousands of Bangladeshi garment factory workers staged violent protests last month, aiming to increase their monthly pay. During the protests, about 400 of the country's 5,000 garment factories were forced to close.
Bangladesh earns about $20 billion a year – about 80% of its total exports – by selling clothes to major European and American brands and retailers.