Factory fire kills 110 garment workers in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is to hold a national day of mourning tomorrow after at least 110 people were killed and another 100 injured in a garment factory fire on Saturday.

The fire raged through Tazreen Fashion Ltd, based in Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka — prompting calls from trade unions and labor rights groups for immediate action from international brands who source from Bangladesh.

Hong Kong based sourcing giant Li & Fung and Dutch apparel chain C&A have both confirmed they placed orders with Tazreen Fashion.

The blaze, which gutted the eight-story building, is said to be the worst ever in the history of Bangladesh’s $20 billion export-earning clothing industry.

First reports suggest the fire was started by an electrical short circuit, and broke out on the ground floor, which was used as a warehouse.

Nearly 100 people were seriously injured by burns and smoke inhalation, a police official confirmed.

Tazreen Fashion employs more than 2,000 people — with around 1,100 working when the fire broke out on Saturday evening. The factory works around the clock in three 8-hour shifts.

“I can’t exactly say when the factory will back to operation as we incurred a loss of around $18.48 million due to the fire,” Delowar Hossain, managing director of Tazreen Fashion Limited, told just-style on Sunday night.

He also said a huge quantity of fabric was stocked in the warehouse in the ground floor of the factory.

While local media have reported there wasn’t a single fire exit on the outside of the factory, Hossain said there were three exit stairs and denied claims the factory was unsafe.

Tazreen Fashion, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, manufactured readymade garment (RMG) products including trousers, socks and sweaters for export to the US and European Union.

A statement from Dutch apparel chain C&A said it had placed an order for 220,000 sweaters to be delivered to C&A Brazil between December 2012 and February 2013.

Li & Fung said it had placed orders worth $111,000 with Tazreen on behalf of Kids Headquarters, a division of LF USA. It also confirmed no orders had been placed with Tazreen on behalf of its other customers.

The sourcing giant said it is participating in aid efforts and is pledging ($1,200) to the family of every victim — matching the financial assistance offered by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Li & Fung added that it is in “contact with the owner of the factory and it will be carrying out its own investigation into the circumstances which led to the fire.”

With additional reporting by Leonie Barrie.

For more fashion and apparel industry news, go to just-style.com

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