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Saturday 30 August 2014

Day of mourning for blaze victims

Published 27/11/2012 | 08:24

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A man takes photographs inside a garment factory where a fire killed more than 110 people on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP)
A Bangladeshi man reacts as he looks for his son's body outside a garment factory where a fire killed more than 110 people (AP)

Bangladesh has held a day of mourning for the 112 people killed in a weekend garment factory fire.

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The move came as labour groups planned more protests to demand better worker safety in an industry notorious for operating in firetraps.

The national flag flew at half-mast on government buildings, the country's factories were closed as a mark of respect, and prayers for the dead were held in places of worship across the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.

Relatives and colleagues gathered near the site of Saturday's blaze, many wearing black badges as a sign of mourning.

"I've lost my son and the only member to earn for the family," said Nilufar Khatoon, the mother of a worker who died. "What shall I do now?"

Some labour organisations also planned rallies. About 15,000 workers protested on Monday streets away from the gutted factory, blocking traffic on a major highway in a suburb of Dhaka, the capital.

The fire was the deadliest of many to hit garment factories in Bangladesh in recent years. The industry has grown from nothing to become the country's dominant exporter in little more than three decades, but factories often ignore safety in the rush to supply major retailers in the US and Europe. More than 300 people have died over the past six years in Bangladesh garment factory fires.

Wal-Mart said that the factory, owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd, had been making clothes for the US retail giant without its knowledge.

Tazreen was given a "high risk" safety rating after a May 2011 audit conducted by an "ethical sourcing" assessor for Wal-Mart, according to a document posted on the website of Tazreen's parent company, the Tuba Group. Wal-Mart said the factory was no longer authorised to produce merchandise for Wal-Mart but that a supplier subcontracted work to it "in direct violation of our policies". The retailer said it stopped doing business with the supplier on Monday.

"The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh," Wal-Mart said in a statement.

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