Wal-Mart distances itself from Bangladesh factory fire (+video)
112 people died when a garment factory caught fire in Bangladesh on Saturday. The workers had been making clothes for Wal-Mart, though the retail giant said it was unaware of the contract.
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Tazreen Fashions is a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, a major Bangladeshi garment exporter whose clients include Wal-Mart, Carrefour and IKEA, according to its website. Its factories supply garments to the US, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, among other countries. The Tazreen factory opened in 2009 and employed about 1,700 people.Skip to next paragraph
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Neither Tazreen nor Tuba Group officials could be reached for comment.
Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, said investigators suspect a short circuit caused the fire.
But the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association urged investigators not to rule out sabotage.
"Local and international conspirators are trying to destroy our garment industry," association President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said. He provided no details.
Mahbub said it was the lack of safety measures in the building that made the blaze so deadly. "Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," he said.
He said firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building. Local media reported that about 100 injured people were being treated at hospitals.
The government was unable to identify many victims because they were burned beyond recognition; they were buried Monday in a grave outside Dhaka. The government said Tuesday will be a day of national mourning, with the flag lowered to half-staff.
Mohammad Ripu said he tried to run out of the building when the fire alarm rang but was stopped.
"Managers told us, 'Nothing happened. The fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work,'" Ripu said. "But we quickly understood that there was a fire. As we again ran for the exit point we found it locked from outside, and it was too late."
Ripu said he jumped from a second-floor window and suffered minor injuries.
Another worker, Yeamin, who uses only one name, said fire extinguishers in the factory didn't work, and "were meant just to impress the buyers or authority."
TV footage showed a team of investigators finding some unused fire extinguishers inside the factory.
Bangladesh has some 4,000 garment factories. The country earns about $20 billion a year from exports of garments, mainly to the US and Europe.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said it would stand by the victims' families and offered $1,250 to each of the families of the dead.
Associated Press writer Al Emrun Garjan contributed to this report.