Another factory fire in Bangladesh; toll of previous rises to 112



Dhaka: Fire fighters on Monday doused a fresh factory fire near the Bangladeshi capital, a day after one of deadliest blaze razed a readymade garments unit, killing 112 people and raising questions about the safety standards in the world's second largest garment exporting nation.

Officials and witnesses said the latest fire did not claim any life as most workers jumped out, breaking safety grills in the 10-storey building housing three garment units.

The fresh blaze came as the nation conducted a mass burial for victims burnt in Saturday night's fire as police said they had opened a "murder case" after the incident attributing it to "criminal negligence".

Fire fighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory, and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building to escape the fire.

Thousands of workers staged a protest, demanding better protection as the two fires trapped thousands of staff forcing them to jump from upper floors. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a nationwide mourning tomorrow for the victims of the Tazrin Fashion Plant at Ashulia area.

The government also launched an official inquiry into the blaze which will run parallel to the police investigation.

Several rights groups and expert bodies attributed lack of safety standards or flimsy safety audits by western buyers for such tragedies.

But director general of the fire service retired Army brigadier general Abu Nayem Mohammad Shahidullah declined the allegation, saying he rather feared "sabotage" to have caused the tragedy to "frustrate the country's rapidly growing RMG (Readymade Garment) sector".

"The RMG units comply with the safety standards also because of pressures and vigilance from buyers...Our initial enquiry shows the Tazreen Fashion (the factory where the blaze killed 111) authorities all required equipment in place alongside three separate staircases so workers could quickly escape the scene," he told a news agency.

Shahidulah also rejected a proposition that despite extra precautions garments units have more casualties in fires, saying the RMG units were exposed more to media attention.

"The RMG units comes to limelight as because of the higher casualties as they require more people to work there compared to other types factories," he said. Vice president of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Siddiqul Islam told a news agency that they too feared "sabotage" in the Ashulia blaze.

"It is not unlikely that it was an act of sabotage," he said.

But director of the sate-run Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) Mohammad Abdul Qayyum said Bangladesh witnessed major blazes in the recent years particularly garment sectors due to lack of adequate safety measures and unplanned construction of factory buildings.

PTI