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Bangladesh’s deadly garment industry has claimed the lives of 23 workers and has left over 100 injured, many seriously, in a factory fire.
The blaze occurred at the That’s It Sports Wear Ltd, which is part of the Hameem Group, one of the biggest garment exporters in the country.
The fire broke out on the top floors of an eleven-storey building in the Ashulia Industrial Zone. The death toll would likely have been far higher were it not for the fact that many workers were away from the factory having lunch at the time of the blaze.
An investigation is underway into the causes of the fire but police say that an electrical fault is the likely cause.
Most of the victims had been trying to escape the flames by climbing down from the top floors of an eleven-storey building. Some later reported that that four of the seven staircases leading out of the building were blocked.
Says ITGLWF General Secretary Patrick Itschert: “This tragedy is a brutal reminder of the need for urgent action to address the grossly inadequate safety measures in place in the country’s garment factories . In the past five years alone, over 170 workers have died in factory fires and other disasters – a record which must surely be putting the country’s export industry at risk.
The ITGLWF is calling upon the government, the employers and the brands sourcing from the factory to take immediate measures to ensure that the workers receive exemplary compensation and that urgent action is taken to address the appalling fire safety situation in the industry.
The tragedy occurs just one week after a multistakeholder meeting on fire safety convened by the ITGLWF in Dhaka. The meeting brought together more than 90 representatives of government, employers, brands, trade unions and NGOs in order to examine the fire safety situation and to look at possible solutions. The multi-stakeholder meeting was part of a three-month pilot programme run by the ITGLWF and Social Accountability International (SAI) supported by the MFA Forum.