Dhaka: The deadly blaze at Bangladesh Tazreen factory that engulfed 112 lives was an act of sabotage by someone who worked there, an investigation committee said on Tuesday.
The panel investigating the factory fire added that the owner of the factory was responsible for the fire tragedy and should be punished as he was the one “who failed to ensure the safety”.
The committee head accused the owner of the factory of “severe negligence”.
"If someone is responsible for such a huge number of deaths, that`s him," committee head Mainuddin Khandaker said of factory owner Delwar Hossain.
The November 24 fire at the Tazreen garment factory in the Ashulia district on the outskirts of Dhaka had claimed 112 lives.
Earlier also, some government and garment industry officials had alleged that the Nov 24 fire was an act of sabotage.
But the casualties would have been greatly reduced if the factory had followed safety rules, said a fire official.
The factory lacked emergency exits and Hossain has said only three floors of the eight-story building were legally built. Surviving employees said gates had been locked and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm went off.
The four-member committee submitted its report to the government Monday. At least two other investigations are continuing.
Khandaker, an official with the Ministry of Home Affairs, told The Associated Press that committee members believe some people who worked at the factory were involved in the sabotage.
"Otherwise, how come they locked the gates? How come they asked the workers to go back to work even after the fire alarm?" he said.
Three factory officials suspected of locking workers inside the building were arrested days after the fire and remain in custody.
Khandaker said the panel recommended further investigation through a "powerful intelligence agency" to unearth the insiders.
No matter who is responsible for setting the fire, Khandaker said, "We can`t spare the owner of the factory. He is responsible for his failure to ensure safety. I have recommended specifically to bring the owner under the purview of law."
Hossain "tried to defend himself" under questioning from the committee, Khandaker said. "But I can tell you clearly that he had serious negligence as he has failed to follow existing building code and safety rules."
A phone call seeking comment from Hossain rang unanswered Monday night.
The committee recommended that the government form a "powerful task force" to ensure safety at garment factories across the country. The garment industry accounts for about 80 percent of Bangladesh`s exports, and workers` rights groups say existing regulations have gone unenforced because officials fear the industry`s power.
The Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory made clothing for several major US retailers, including Wal-Mart, which had received a 2011 audit warning about the factory`s conditions. Wal-Mart and other companies said suppliers had used the Tazreen factory without their knowledge.
With Agency Inputs