Bangaldesh: Deadly Fire more than 100 Garment Workers

Posted By Zaheerul Hassan

DHAKA, Bangladesh — According to New Yarks times report thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers staged angry protests on Monday, demanding justice after at least 112 people died over the weekend in a fire at a factory on the outskirts of Dhaka where labor advocates found the charred remains of clothing brands sold at global retailers like Walmart.

In fact Bangldesh Prime minister Bangladesh though has shown symthies with the affected famies but overall failed to control the government institutions .

The protests paralyzed much of the Ashulia area, an important industrial belt north of Dhaka, the capital, as workers blocked roads, prompting some factories to close for the day. A second garment factory in a different part of Dhaka was engulfed in flames on Monday morning. By afternoon, the second fire had been brought under control without any casualties being reported.

The weekend fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory ranks as one of Bangladesh’s worst industrial accidents. Witnesses described a desperate scene, as workers leapt from the upper floors of the factory, trying to land on nearby rooftops and escape the smoke and flames. Others suffocated inside the factory building, as the blaze apparently rendered stairwells impassable.

Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor leader, said she toured the factory after the fire was extinguished and found labels for a variety of global retailers, including Faded Glory, a brand she said was manufactured for Walmart. Ms. Akter said she also found labels for brands sold at leading European retailers.

“These international, Western brands have a lot of responsibility for these fire issues,” said Ms. Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “In this factory, there was a pile of fabrics and yarn stored on the ground floor that caught fire. Workers couldn’t evacuate through the stairs. What does this say about compliance?”

Bangladesh is a garment powerhouse, with more than $18 billion a year in exports, ranking second behind China. More than three million workers are employed in the country’s 4,500 garment factories, most of them women. The industry has become an essential engine for the domestic economy, and a critical source of foreign currency that helps the government pay for imported oil.

But Bangladesh’s garment industry has also attracted rising international and domestic criticism over a poor fire safety record, desperately low wages and policies that restrict labor organizing inside factories. The Clean Clothes Campaign, a European group that opposes sweatshops, said that more than 500 Bangladeshi laborers had died in factory fires since 2006. In 2010, 29 workers died from a fire inside a Bangladeshi factory making clothing for Tommy Hilfiger.

On Monday, Bangladesh’s cabinet announced that all of the country’s garment factories would close on Tuesday as part of a national day of mourning. Meanwhile, many family members of workers at the Tazreen factory continued to search for loved ones. Some victims were burned beyond recognition.

Nur Alam, 30, had been searching for his older brother, Anwar Hossain, since the fire erupted on Saturday. “I went inside the factory with some officials on Sunday,” Mr. Alam said. “I saw the remains of three people. It was impossible to identify them.”

The police were continuing to investigate the blaze. Delowar Hossain, the managing director of the parent group of Tazreen Fashions, could not be reached for comment on Monday. A Walmart spokesman could not confirm that Tazreen supplied Walmart.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragedy,”   Walmart said in a statement on Sunday. “While we are trying to determine if the factory has a current relationship with Walmart or one of our suppliers, fire safety is a critically important area of Walmart’s factory audit program, and we have been working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”A document posted on the Web site of Tazreen Fashions appeared to be an inspection complaint by Walmart. In the document, an “ethical sourcing” official flagged violations at the factory in May 2011, without detailing the problems. The Walmart spokesman said on Sunday that the company had not yet confirmed whether the document was authentic.

The second fire broke out on Monday morning on the first floor of a 12-story building that included three separate garment factories in the Uttara area of Dhaka. Muhammad Mahboob, a fire official, said the fire might have been caused by an electrical spark in the building’s generator, which is on the first floor. He said a dozen fire trucks reached the building quickly and doused the blaze within an hour, containing it to the first floor.

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