By: Tinsley Tullos
Dozens were killed in a garment factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Tuesday, December 14. The fire spread through a 10-story factory owned by resident business Ha-Meem Group, in the Ashulia Industrial zone. The factory supplied clothes to several clothing chains, such as Gap, H&M and Kohl’s. Police and fire officials are not certain how the fire started; therefore an investigation has been issued.
Some suspicion has been aroused due to recent protest activity over textile workers’ low wages. Bangladesh workers are some of the lowest-paid workers in the world. In the last four years, Bangladesh’s minimum wage has been raised to just 3,000 takas ($45) a month. Violent outbreaks, involving protestors and police, took place just days before the fire, leaving some dead.
The fire began on the first two floors during a lunch break, forcing workers to flee the building immediately. Close to 13,000 people work at the factory each day. Although many of those workers left for lunch, several were still trapped due to locked emergency stairwells. Those trapped chose to jump from the tenth floor, but only a few survived. A reported 100 people were injured, and 27 were dead. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has agreed to supply workers and families of the victims with 100,000 takas ($1,370) in compensation.
The Ashulia Industrial zone supplies clothes to 70 foreign companies and employs 150,000 workers. Garment factories are often prone to fires, due to inadequate safety factors and easily combustible piles of clothes. The electrician reported a short circuit but was not sure if that was the cause. As the building remains barricaded, factory owners plan to re-open the first eight floors by next week. Much of the fire was put under control by Tuesday evening before having time to ruin the remaining parts of the building.
With news of re-opening soon, the fire will not restraint Dhaka’s textile industry for long. The investigation continues in hopes of finding out the real cause of the fire.