At least 47 die locked in Bangldesh factory fire

SHIBPUR, Bangladesh, AFP

At least 47 people were killed in a fire overnight at a towel factory in Bangladesh after the owners locked up to 900 workers inside, police and doctors said Sunday.

Up to 100 workers were reportedly being treated for burns and other injuries after the blaze in the eastern town of Shibpur, 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the capital Dhaka.

Doctor Atiqur Rahman, at a hospital in the nearby town of Narsingdi, confirmed registering 47 bodies at the morgue and said another 15 injured were rushed in for treatment Saturday night.

Rahman said seven of the injured were released overnight after primary treatment and five with serious injuries were sent to a hospital in Dhaka. Only three were still at the hospital receiving medication for minor injuries, he said.

Senior district officials have gone to the scene to assess the damage and were unavailable for comment.

Police cordoned off the four-story building as hundreds of residents and wailing relatives of the victims watched firemen dampen down the gutted top floor where the fire originated, a photographer at the scene said.

The factory is one of scores at the government-run BISIC industrial park in Shibpur.

Local residents said the locked gates were forced opened immediately by rescuers to allow hundreds of screaming workers to flee.

Without the firemen’s action, casualties would have been higher, they said.

Forty of the dead were women, police spokesman Mujibur Rahman told AFP, adding an investigation into the cause was underway.

In August, at least 12 people were killed in a pre-dawn fire at a clothing factory in Dhaka.

A rash of fires at the hundreds of readymade garment factories in Bangladesh recently forced the authorities to tighten workplace safety, including mandating wide staircases and emergency exits.

The garment industry, which employs more than 1.5 million people in Bangladesh, mostly female workers from poor rural families, is the country’s second largest export earner.

This week the owner and manager of a South African chemicals factory where 11 workers burnt to death last week — also apparently after being locked in — appeared in court on charges of culpable homicide.