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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Inquiry: Factory fire was sabotage

Published 17/12/2012 | 17:59

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The Bangladesh clothes factory fire that killed 112 people was started deliberately

A Bangladesh government committee investigating the clothes factory fire that killed 112 people says the blaze was sabotage, probably by someone who worked there.

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But the panel said that no matter who started the fire, the owner of the factory should also be punished for the deaths because he neglected worker safety.

"If someone is responsible for such a huge number of deaths, that's him. He has failed to ensure safety," committee head Mainuddin Khandaker said of factory owner Delwar Hossain.

Some government and clothes industry officials had claimed soon after the November 24 fire that it was an act of sabotage, though a fire brigade official said casualties would have been greatly reduced if the business had followed safety rules.

The factory lacked emergency exits and Mr Hossain has said only three floors of the eight-storey building were legally built. Surviving employees said gates had been locked and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm went off.

The four-member committee submitted its report to the government on Monday. At least two other investigations are continuing.

Mr Khandaker, a Ministry of Home Affairs official, said committee members believe some people who worked at the factory were involved in the sabotage. "Otherwise, how come they locked the gates? How come they asked the workers to go back to work even after the fire alarm?" he said.

Three factory officials suspected of locking workers inside the building were arrested days after the fire and remain in custody.

Mr Khandaker said the panel recommended further investigation through a "powerful intelligence agency" to unearth the insiders. But he added: "We can't spare the owner of the factory. He is responsible for his failure to ensure safety. I have recommended specifically to bring the owner under the purview of law."

Mr Hossain "tried to defend himself" under questioning from the committee, Mr Khandaker said. "But I can tell you clearly that he had serious negligence as he has failed to follow existing building code and safety rules."

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