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Another Fire Claims Eight Lives in Dhaka

Garment factory managing director among the dead.

Eight people have been killed in a fire that broke out late Wednesday in an 11-story building in Dhaka, Bangladesh that housed a garment factory. It is the fourth accident in Bangladesh’s garment industry since November when a fire claimed 111 lives at another factory in the city.
 
Police officials told WWD that among the dead was Mahbubur Rahman, the managing director of the factory, Tung Hai Sweater Ltd. Rahman was also a director at Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
 
The building is located in Mirpur, in the northeastern part of Dhaka, a garmentfactory hub. Most of the workers had already left for the day when the firebroke out.
 
“It is not clear to us how the accident happened, but we are trying to find out the cause,” said a spokesperson for BGMEA, according to Reuters. Local press reports said firemen were quick to respond to the situation and within three hours were able to douse the flames before they spread beyond the third floor.
 
Tung Hai sweaters Ltd is one of six divisions of the Tung Hai group which was started in 1994.
 
Online, the company describes itself as a “manufacturer of hand-driven flat-knitted” garments as well as T-shirts, polo shirts, and pants.” It boasted several compliance achievements and certificates.
 
The company information also lists Tung Hai as having “transformed itself into one of the largest leading groups in the sweater knitting and export trade industry” with more than 7,000 employees and its head office in an 11-story building in Mirpur-1, Dhaka.
 
The group said its customers include Primark; Inditex; Peacocks; New Look;Point Zero; E. Leclerc; and Agora.
 
In other Bangladesh news, rescue teams at Savar continue to excavate the bodies of garment workers trapped after the building collapsed on April 24. The eight-story building housed five garment factories and more than 3,000 workers.

 

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Police officials said that 94 more bodies were retrieved from the wreckage early Thursday morning, taking the death toll to more than 900.
 
They told WWD that rescue operations are winding down, as rescue teams have finally been able to access the building’s first and second floors and reach deeper into the rubble.
 
More than 300 of the bodies recovered have yet to be identified and claimed by their families. The government has been sending the bodies for DNA testing, officials said.
 
Teams of government inspectors began visiting factories in Dhaka and Chittagong after 111 people were killed in a fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd on November 24, followed by another factory fire at Smart Fashion on January 26 which claimed seven lives.
 
The spate of fires has had global rights groups and even delegations from the European Union and the U.S. calling for better safety measures in garment factories.
 
The situation in Dhaka has been tense. Thursday is the second day of a hartal, or shutdown, called by 18 opposition parties and led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP).
 
The strike is part of the opposition’s demand for an interim, caretaker government to be named in anticipation of elections scheduled for early next year. It is also to protest the deaths  of more than 30 people who were killed in a slew of demonstrations Monday as Islamic fundamentalists laid siege to Dhaka as part of their campaign for an anti-blasphemy law.
 
There will be another citywide shut down on May 12, called by Hefajat-e Islam group.
 
Owners of local garment factories have been pleading with the government to stop the frequent shutdowns that have been taking place this year.
 
They come at a high cost: BGMEA officials said last month that exporters were forced to notch additional losses of around 2500 million taka, or $ 32.10 million at current exchange, due to shutdowns in January and February alone.