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34 Dead in Bangladesh Factory Fire

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The Pulse

34 Dead in Bangladesh Factory Fire

The fire is the latest incident calling Bangladesh’s workplace safety into question.

34 Dead in Bangladesh Factory Fire

Bangladeshi garment workers march to demand workplace safety in 2011.

Credit: NGWF via Flickr/ Derek Blackadder

At least 34 people died in a boiler explosion and the subsequent fire at a packaging factory in Bangladesh on Saturday.

According to officials, ten people are still missing after the accident. The incident took place at Tampaco Foils Ltd factory north of the capital, Dhaka.

The packaging factory collapsed due to a major blaze caused by an explosion in the boiler room. The police estimate that 100 people were in the four-story factory when the incident took place, including machine operators and guards.

Thirteen workers were taken to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital for treatment of burn injuries, including six in critical condition.

Firefighters struggled to bring the blaze under control after the blast on September 10. Local fire and civil defense chief Anis Ahamed said 20 fire trucks were called in to extinguish the fire.

According to senior firefighting official Anis Mahmud, the relatives of 10 people had lodged missing person’s reports in connection with the fire. Officials fear more bodies might be still inside the ruins of the factory; Mahmud told AFP firefighters found four additional bodies on Sunday evening.

Besides the death toll, around 70 people were also injured in the blaze.

Bangladesh factory inspector general Syed Ahmed said an investigation will be set up to look into the causes of the accident.

“We will find out the responsible people behind this disaster and will take all necessary and legal actions,” Ahmed told AFP.

Labor rights groups are urging the Bangladesh government and Western companies to work harder to protect factory workers in their supply chains.

“The boiler explosion and resulting fire… demonstrates the ongoing dangers to industrial workers in” Bangladesh, a statement from a consortium of groups, including the International Labor Rights Forum, said.

Tampaco Foils Limited factory, located in the industrial town of Tongi, packages food and cigarette products for domestic and foreign brands.

The factory fire is the latest in a spate of deadly accidents in Bangladesh, whose $27 billion garment industry is the world’s second biggest behind China’s.

Factory safety is a big worry in Bangladesh, which hosts thousands of clothing and packaging factories that supply goods to major international brands.

Bangladesh suffered an even greater industrial disaster during the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment complex in 2013. The accident cost the lives of 1,135 people. The Rana Plaza tragedy triggered international condemnation that successfully prompted global brands and the United Nations to improve their safety standards at the factories that supply their products.

Despite the tighter controls, dozens of workers still die in accidents each year. In 2015, at least 13 people died in a fire at a plastics factory in Dhaka.

Roshni Kapur is a graduate student at the University of Sydney majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies.