11/26/2012, 00.00
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Bangladesh in flames, more explosions in a garment factory. The toll of victims has risen to 124

Another fire has hit a 12-storey structure in Dhaka, 48 hours after the tragedy of Tazreen Fashion in Ashulia. The search for survivors continues. The causes of the fire still unknown. The building had no emergency exits: trapped, the victims were burned alive or died after jumping out of the windows to save themselves. The Li & Fung company of Hong Kong, a client of the burned factory, will compensate the victims.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - A new fire broke out this morning in another textile factory in Dhaka (Bangladesh), two days after the explosion in Ashulia that killed at least 124 workers. At present, police and firefighters are trying to douse the flames, which have engulfed a 12-storey building. "The fire", reported Nisharul Arif, Dhaka's deputy police commissioner, "broke out on the third floor. We can see some people on the rooftop." Meanwhile, the death toll is not stopping for the victims of the accident that on November 24 struck a factory producing clothes for several international chains, including the Dutch C & A and Li & Fung of Hong Kong. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she was "shocked" by the deaths of the workers, and announced shortly afterwards a national day of mourning in their memory.

The November 24 fire broke out at night in the Tazreen Fashion warehouse, a nine-storey factory in the industrial zone of Ashulia, north of Dhaka. The building has no emergency exits, and the workers found themselves trapped in the structure: most were burned alive. Others tried to jump from the upper-floor windows, but many lost their lives in the fall. For the moment, the cause of the fire is still unknown.

Delwar Houssain, owner of Tazreen Fashion, denies that the premises of the factory were dangerous. However, these two incidents reopen the issue of the working conditions of Bangladeshi workers. Babul Akhter, head of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation, said: "Global buyers who buy cheap apparel from Bangladesh do audit safety issues in factories. But these audits are not actual inspections." In March, the PVH Corp., which markets brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, signed an agreement with unions from Bangladeshi and international unions to develop a fire safety program to prevent future accidents in garment factories.

Meanwhile, Li & Fung, the world's largest supplier of clothes and toys for the retail sector, today announced that it will conduct an investigation to clarify the causes of the fire. In addition, the company from Hong Kong will give 100,000 taka (about 950 euro) to the family of each victim.

After China, Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothing in the world. According to the International Labor Rights Forum, since 2005, 700 textile workers have died in the country due to buildings not in accordance with safety regulations. The textile industry accounts for more than 10% of the national GDP and about 80% of exports, mostly to the United States and Europe. Bangladesh has around 4,500 factories, employing over 2 million people.



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