BANGLADESH: Fire Sparks Questions About Safety in Bangladesh

Breaking news of a garment factory fire that broke out on November 24 in Bangladesh has rightly dominated the Bangladeshi media. The next day, the Daily Star assessed the death toll at 109 people.

The fire started on Saturday night in an eight-story garment factory located in Ashulia, an industrial area north of the capital, Dhaka. The managing director of the factory, Delowar Hossain, stated that around 300 workers were inside the factory at the time. Unfortunately, the death toll is expected to rise as 100 “charred” bodies have already been recovered from only the first three floors of the building.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on the devastating fire and stated that workers inside the factory were seen jumping out of the burning building. In addition, some surviving workers claimed that the building’s fire escape had been blocked, making escape nearly impossible.

The garment industry in Bangladesh is currently the second largest exporter of clothing, second only to China, and accounts for earnings of $19 billion in the fiscal year ending in June of 2012. However, the safety of the workers in this booming industry is now in question. Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said that an investigation at this factory will take place to determine whether the factory was complying with safety regulations. One tip-off might be: the blocked fire escape!

The tragedy looms as an overwhelming devastation for the  factory’s workers and their families. The authorities in Bangladesh will be forced to answer some difficult question about the safety of their citizens. So should Western manufacturers who depend on this country’s clothing exports.

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