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Tragedy in hub of world’s garment factory

Dhaka, Nov. 25 (AP): At least 112 people were killed in a fire that raced through a multi-storeyed garment factory just outside Bangladesh’s capital, an official said today.

The blaze broke out at the seven-storey factory operated by Tazreen Fashions on late Saturday. By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department operations director Maj. Mohammad Mahbub said.

He said another 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals. The death toll could rise as the search for victims was continuing, he said.

Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed in the fire. The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, and authorities have ordered an investigation.

Bangladesh has some 4,000 garment factories, many without proper safety measures. The country annually earns about $20 billion from exports of garment products, mainly to the US and Europe.

Bangladesh’s garment factories make clothes for brands including Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour and Tesco.

Relatives of the factory workers were frantically looking for their loved ones. Sabina Yasmine said she saw the body of her daughter-in-law, who died in the fire, but had no trace of her son, who also worked at the factory.

“Oh, where’s my soul? Where’s my son?” wailed Yasmine, who works at another factory in the area. “I want the factory owner to be hanged. For him, many have died, many have gone.”

Mahbub said firefighters found 69 bodies on the second floor of the factory alone. He said most of the victims had been trapped inside the factory, located just outside Dhaka, with no emergency exits leading outside the building.

Many workers who had taken shelter on the roof of the factory were rescued, but firefighters were unable to save those who were trapped inside, Mahbub said.

He said the fire broke out on the ground floor, which was used as a warehouse, and spread quickly to the upper floors.

“The factory had three staircases, and all of them were down through the ground floor,” Mahbub said. “So the workers could not come out when the fire engulfed the building.”

“Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower,” he said.

Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition. The recovered bodies were kept in rows on the premise of a nearby school.

Army soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed to help police keep the situation under control as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered at the scene, Mahbub said. He would not say how many people were still missing.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock and asked authorities to conduct thorough search-and-rescue operations.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said it would stand by the victims’ families.

 
 
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