Dhaka: Bangladesh on Wednesday launched a probe into a huge fire at a two-storey garment factory near here that claimed at least nine lives, in the latest industrial disaster to hit the world`s second-largest garment exporter.
"A seven-member committee has been constituted and asked to submit the report into the blaze in next seven days," a home ministry spokesman told reporters.
Fire brigade officials said they could eventually douse the blaze after nightlong struggle at the Palmal Group`s Aswad Composite Mills in Gazipur outside Dhaka, which apparently originated after the blast of a machine and swept through the two-story factory and an adjacent tin-made structure.
The media reports put the toll as high as nine while officials confirmed seven deaths but admitted several were missing or feared dead while the rescue operation was underway inside the ready-made garments unit.
"We can confirm if there are more bodies only after the charred remains of the fabrics are removed," Gazipur`s Additional Deputy Commissioner Shahnawaz Dilruba Khan said.
The fire came five months after over 1,132 workers were killed following the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza and 11 months after an identical fire killed 112 people in another such unit, raising questions over safety standards in garments factories.
Officials and witnesses said the blaze at the Aswad mills left 50 people injured while the lives it claimed included factory manager Rashiduzzaman Mandal and two technicians.
The other deceased could not be identified as their bodies were charred beyond recognition.
Factory Director Emdad Hossain said 170 workers were on duty on the two floors when the fire broke out. He claimed most of them managed to come out of the building as the fire erupted.
The fresh accident came as workers last week returned to the production line after days of street protests over their low wage after the government and factory owners assured them of raising their salaries by November.
Bangladesh is the world`s second-largest garment exporter having over 4,500 factories which account for nearly 80 per cent of the country`s USD 27-billion annual exports paying a worker the minimum wage of USD 38 a month.
Widespread protests for wage hikes in 2006 and 2010 led to deadly clashes, leaving dozens of workers dead and hundreds of factories vandalised.