Bangladesh investigates latest factory fire

Blaze kills seven garment workers, just two months after another garment factory fire killed 112. Bangladesh exports clothes to leading Western retailers. 

A.M. Ahad/AP
A Bangladeshi garment worker inspects the damaged machinery inside the Smart Export Garment Ltd. factory where a fire Saturday claimed the lives of seven of her female colleagues in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh's government has ordered an investigation into allegations that the sole emergency exit at the factory was locked, an official said Sunday.

Bangladesh's government has ordered an investigation into allegations that the sole emergency exit was locked at a garment factory where a fire killed seven female workers, an official said Sunday.

The fire Saturday at the Smart Export Garment Ltd. factory occurred just two months after a blaze killed 112 workers in another factory near the capital, raising questions about safety in Bangladesh's garment industry, which exports clothes to leading Western retailers. The gates of that factory were locked.

Government official Jahangir Kabir Nanak said an investigation has been ordered into the cause of Saturday's fire and allegations that the emergency exit was locked.

Altaf Hossain, father of a garment worker killed in the latest fire, has filed a police case against three directors of the factory, accusing them of negligence involving the fire, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Sub-inspector Shamsul Hoque told The Associated Press on Sunday.

He said police had begun an investigation.

Doctors said most of the victims died from asphyxiation.

"When I tried to escape through the emergency exit I found the gate locked," Raushan Ara, a worker at the factory, was quoted as saying by Dhaka's Prothom Alo newspaper.

The newspaper said at least 50 people were injured in a stampede triggered by the fire. Six were hospitalized, while others received first aid treatment on their own.

Some of the injured jumped out of the windows of the two-story factory, survivors said.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Monzurul Kabir said the bodies of seven women were recovered from the top floor of the factoryt. He said the factory was making pants and shirts, but could not provide further details.

Fire official Abdul Halim said it took firefighters about two hours to bring the blaze under control.

Volunteers joined firefighters in battling the fire as a large crowd gathered outside the factory awaiting word on the fate of relatives. Family members were seen crying near the body of a female worker named Josna, who was 16.

About 250 workers were working at the time of the fire, newspapers said.

It was not immediately known if the factory produced garments for any international companies. The owner was not available for comment, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said the factory was not a member so it had no details.

Earlier this month, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. alerted its global suppliers that it will immediately drop them if they subcontract their work to factories that haven't been authorized by the discounter. The stricter contracting rule, along with other changes to its policy, come amid increasing calls for better safety oversight after the deadly fire in late November at a factory owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd. that supplied clothing to Wal-Mart and other retailers. Wal-Mart has said the factory wasn't authorized to make its clothes.

Wal-Mart ranks second behind Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M in the number of clothing orders it places in Bangladesh.

Fires have led to more than 600 deaths of garment workers in Bangladesh since 2005, according to research by the advocacy group International Labor Rights Forum.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.