At least 25 killed in Bangladesh factory fire

Around 100 people were working when flames tore through the four-storey building in the industrial town of Tongi, just north of the capital Dhaka.
Firefighters remove a dead body at a garment packaging factory after fire broke out outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
Firefighters remove a dead body at a garment packaging factory after fire broke out outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Dhaka // At least 25 people have been killed and 70 injured in a huge fire triggered by a boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi packaging factory.

Around 100 people were working when flames tore through the four-storey building in the industrial town of Tongi, just north of the capital Dhaka.

The fire started in the boiler room at the Tampaco Foils Limited factory, which supplies foreign and domestic brands.

“I was working inside the office room when I heard an explosion and felt a tremor, then suddenly the ceiling started to fall on me,” said factory electrician Mohammad Rokon, 35, speaking from his hospital bed. “I almost became unconscious. But I forced myself to go out with the help of my mobile phone’s flashlight.”

Police inspector Aminul Isla said he feared some workers were still trapped inside

Parvez Mia, a doctor at the Tongi government hospital, said seriously injured victims had been sent to hospitals in the Dhaka. “Several of them are very critical,” he added.

Machine operator Rubel Hossain was two minutes away from entering the factory when the blast occurred.

“I heard a huge explosion and saw smoke and fire coming out of the factory,” he said. “I am simultaneously feeling lucky and heart-broken,” he said, tears streaming down his face as he helped rush the many injured to hospital, blood staining his T-shirt.

The tragedy struck as families were preparing to celebrate Eid Al Adha.

“My brother Delwar Hossain told us last night he would take us to our home district of Sherpur. Now he is going to be buried there,” said Khaleda Begum, the sister of a factory worker killed in the accident.

“Eid is ruined for our family.”

Chemicals may have been stored on the ground floor of the factory, helping to explain how the blaze that began at 6am local time on Saturday spread so fast, said Tahmidul Islam of Bangladesh’s industrial police unit.

He said scores of firefighters were battled to bring the blaze under control.

According to the company’s website, the packaging factory supplies multinational and domestic brands including British-American Tobacco Bangladesh Limited and Nestle Bangladesh Limited.

The head of Bangladesh’s factory inspection department said a committee had been set up to investigate the fire.

“They’ll probe why the fire occurred and whether the factory lacked proper fire safety measures. They will also suggest how we can improve fire safety of local factories,” Ahmed said.

Fires and other accidents are common in the factories that make up the US$27-billion (Dh99.2bn) garment industry in Bangladesh, the world’s second-biggest apparel exporter after China.

In November 2012, at least 111 workers were killed when a devastating fire engulfed a nine-storey garment factory in the Ashulia industrial area, outside the capital Dhaka.

The accident was followed by an even bigger tragedy six months later when 1,138 people died after another clothing factory complex collapsed, trapping more than 3,000 workers.

*Agence France-Presse

Published: September 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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