Fury in B`desh, workers demand multinationals pay compensation

The worker were enraged as the factory owner of the Tazreen Fashion continued to elude the police dragnet.

Dhaka: Hundreds of angry factory workers took to the streets on Wednesday in the Bangladesh capital, demanding enhanced workplace safety following the country`s worst factory fire that left 112 people dead, prompting authorities to arrest three managers of the razed garment plant.

The worker were enraged as the factory owner of the Tazreen Fashion continued to elude the police dragnet.

Police burst teargas shells to disperse the violent mob who laid siege to a major highway leading to the row of garment factories, which new reports said mostly catered to international brand names like Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco.

They demanded that these international business houses should own up responsibility for the dismal safety conditions in the garment factories.

"Some 20 people were injured during sporadic clashes, chases and counter chases for more than two hours... An electric short circuit with a big bang at one of the factories caused fresh panic temporarily angering the workers further," witnesses said.

The demonstrators also vandalised a factory and set two motorcycles parked in front of it afire apart from hurling stones as they took to the street for the second consecutive day while workers unions and media raised questions about the safety measures.

Police said that they had arrested the administrative officer, the store in-charge and a security supervisor of the factory following allegations that they told workers to stay put and not to panic even when flames had taken a lethal turn.

Several media reports called the raged factory a "death trap" with no staircase mounted to the outside of the building while it was securely bolted with iron frames from inside.

Meanwhile, a Dhaka court today placed three arrested officials of fire-devastated factory on a five-day remand as initial enquiries indicated the tragedy could an act of sabotage.

"If the accused acted responsibly, the victims and others survivours could have escaped the accident," a police official said.

Police, meanwhile, restricted entry to the Tazreen Fashions factory declaring the burnt factory structure "extremely vulnerable" and feared it might collapse.

The development came a day after national flag was kept half mast as Bangladesh observed today a state mourning for the Saturday night`s inferno victims.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, "Actions will be taken on the basis of those (investigation) reports."

She noted that the fire in factories could not be doused immediately due to absence of any water source near the scene and asked the factory owners to ensure safe exits and construct water reservoir while setting up any industry.

The apex body of garment factory owners, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the sector`s apex body claimed the factory complied with the safety standards while the fire service too in their initial observation found no major safety lapses.

"Our initial enquiry shows the Tazreen Fashion (the factory where the blaze killed 111) authorities kept all required equipment in place alongside three separate staircases so workers could quickly escape the scene," fire service director general brigadier general (retd) Abu Nayem Mohammad Shahidullah said.

International labour activists, however, said that global clothing brands need to take responsibility for the working conditions in Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes.