Garment Factory Fire Kills Workers In Bangladesh

Reports Indicate Factory Was Not Safe

Bangladesh Factory FireMore than 100 people were killed Saturday in a fire that tore through a Bangladeshi garment factory that produced polo shirts, fleece jackets, and t-shirts. Accounts of the number of deceased factory workers ranged from 112 to 124. Local media reported that about 100 people injured in the fire were being treated in a dozen hospitals. Many of the injured – of which there were more than 200 – were hurt when they jumped from the building to escape the blaze.

Reports indicate the factory was not safe for workers. An exit door was locked from the outside. Fire extinguishers didn't work. Once alarms sounded, managers initially waved them off and told employees to get back to work. Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, told the Associated Press that a short circuit caused the fire at the factory. Still, Mahbub said, the lack of adequate safety measures is what resulted in the staggering loss of life. "Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," he told the AP.

Having opened in 2009, the factory employed about 1,700 people. Following a May 2011 audit by an ethical sourcing assessor for Walmart, the factory received a "high risk" safety rating, the AP reported. Located in Savar near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, the factory is owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group. Exporting garments to the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and other countries, the Tuba Group's clients have included Walmart, Carrefour and IKEA, according to its website.

Bangladesh's ready-made garments industry makes up 80% of the country's $24 billion in annual exports. Since 2006, about 200 people have died in fires at Bangladeshi apparel factories, including 63 people during a single blaze in 2006.