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Fire In Dhaka Garment Factory Kills 111

A fire at a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed at least 111 people Saturday and Sunday.

The blaze at Tazreen Fashions took more than 17 hours to extinguish and dozens of workers were taken to hospitals with smoke inhalation injuries and burns. The factory building lacked an approach road that would’ve allowed emergency vehicles to put out the fire more rapidly.

The blaze adds to the abysmal safety record in recent years for Bangladesh’s garment industry. Despite an increased focus on compliance and pressure from firms like H&M and Walmart, over 500 workers have died in fires since 2006. Factories often lack fire escapes, or lock the escapes that do exist in order to prevent theft. Pressure is growing on companies that work with these deathtrap factories to take responsibility for the conditions in these factories.

Tazreen Fashions had received an “orange” grade from a Walmart “ethical sourcing” official in May 2011, indicating “violations and conditions which were deemed to be high risk,” at the factory. Any factory receiving such a violation three times in two years would lose Walmart orders.

At Tazreen Fashions, the fire started in a warehouse and spread up the nine-story high building. The factory had 1500 works and sales of $35 million a year. The workers who died were largely on the first and second floor, where there were not enough exits for them to get out.

The fire is expected to escalate tension between workers and factories owners. Workers have been agitating for an increase in the minimum wage and benefit package, along with improved transparency, bargaining rights, and safer conditions. A series of strikes over the past year resulted in dozens of deaths and the vandalizing of several factories.

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