Wednesday 21 February 2018

23 killed in explosion and fire at Bangladesh factory

Smoke billows from a packaging factory in the Tongi industrial area outside Dhaka, Bangladesh. (AP)
Smoke billows from a packaging factory in the Tongi industrial area outside Dhaka, Bangladesh. (AP)

A boiler has exploded and triggered a fire at a packaging factory near Bangladesh's capital, killing at least 23 workers and injuring dozens.

Fire officials described as huge Saturday's explosion at the five-story Tampaco Foils Ltd factory in the Tongi industrial area outside Dhaka.

The fire triggered by the blast spread quickly because flammable chemicals were stored at the factory.

At least six of the 14 people being treated for burns at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital were in a critical condition, said police official Mohammed Bacchu Mia. He confirmed that at least 23 people had died.

Local TV stations said about 50 people were injured in all. Television footage showed smoke billowing from the factory, with the fire engulfing part of the upper floors.

Factory safety is a major concern in Bangladesh, which has thousands of garment and packaging factories that supply products to global chains like Wal-Mart and H&M.

A fire at a garment factory in a Dhaka suburb killed 112 workers in 2012. A year later, a commercial complex near Dhaka housing five garment factories collapsed, killing 1,135 people, Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster.

It took firefighters nearly five hours to bring Saturday's blaze in the Tongi area under control. Huge piles of burned materials and chemicals had to be removed from the building to prevent the fire from spreading further.

Authorities have ordered an investigation but it was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which occurred at around 6am.

Syed Mokbul Hossain, the owner of the Tampaco Foils factory, said he was not sure when the boiler was last inspected.

He said around 75 people had been scheduled to work the overnight shift.

Saturday was the last working day at the factory before the workers were to go on leave for a week-long holiday for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which falls on Tuesday.

The major factory accidents in 2012 and 2013 prompted Bangladesh's government, global brands and the United Nations to work together to try to improve safety standards in the South Asian country's factories.


Press Association

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