DHAKA, Bangladesh – A fire swept through a two-story garment factory in Bangladesh’s capital Saturday, killing at least seven female workers and injuring another five, police and fire officials said.
The fire at the Smart factory occurred just two months after a blaze killed 112 workers in another factory near the capital city, raising questions about safety standards and treatment of workers in Bangladesh’s $20-billion garment industry that exports clothes to leading Western retailers. The country has more than 4,000 garment factories
The cause of the latest fire was not immediately known, fire official Abdul Halim said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Monzurul Kabir told The Associated Press that the bodies of seven women were recovered from the top floor of the factory in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur district. He said the factory was making pants and shirts, but could not provide further details.
Halim said it took firefighters about two hours to bring Saturday’s blaze under control.
Volunteers joined firefighters in battling the blaze 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 only 16.
Kabir said the factory was making pants and shirts, but could not provide 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, comes amid increasing calls for better safety oversight after the deadly late November fire 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. Before the fatal fire there, Wal-Mart had taken steps to address safety, such as mandating fire safety training for all levels of factory management.
Building fires have led to more than 600 garment work deaths in Bangladesh since 2005, according to research by the advocacy group International Labor Rights Forum.