Mob fury as blaze toll reaches 112
Published 26/11/2012 | 05:04
Thousands of Bangladeshi workers demanding justice have taken to the streets as the full horror of a clothes factory blaze that killed at least 112 people emerged.
The flames roared up the eight floors of the factory, which had no emergency exits, quickly trapping workers, some of whom leapt from the building where they made clothes for major world retailers.
The factory, outside the capital Dhaka, is owned by Tazreen Fashions, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which makes products for Wal-Mart and other companies in the US and Europe.
Protesters blocked the streets of a Dhaka suburb in a protest that turned violent at times. Angry workers threw stones at factories, smashed vehicles and blocked a major highway in the area. About 200 factories were closed for the day after the protest erupted in Savar, the industrial zone where the deadly fire occurred.
Firefighters pulled out at least 100 bodies and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building. Unions in Bangladesh have long complained about unsafe factories where workers work in dismal sweatshop conditions.
Firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory and 12 more people died in hospital after jumping from the building to escape, Maj Mohammad Mahbub, the fire brigade operations director, said.
"Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," he said. Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed. The cause of the blaze that began on Saturday night was not immediately clear and authorities ordered an investigation.
Tazreen was given a "high risk" safety rating after a May 16, 2011 audit conducted by an "ethical sourcing" assessor for Wal-Mart, according to a document posted on the Tuba Group's website. It did not specify what led to the rating.
Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said online documents indicating an orange or "high risk" assessment after the May inspection and a yellow or "medium risk" report after an inspection in August 2011 appeared to pertain to the factory. The August 2011 letter said Wal-Mart would conduct another inspection within a year.
Mr Gardner said it was not clear if that inspection had been conducted or whether the factory was still making products for Wal-Mart. If a factory is rated "orange" three times in two years, Wal-Mart will not place any orders for one year. The May 2011 report was the first orange rating for the factory. Neither Tazreen's owner nor Tuba Group officials could be reached for comment.