Fire Kills 8 in Bangladesh Garment Factory as Collapse Death Toll Hits 950
Eight people were killed Wednesday evening at a garment factory in Bangladesh, two weeks after a separate garment factory collapsed in the country, killing more than 900.
The fire in the 11-story building began when a pile of acrylic products ignited after business hours Wednesday and quickly spread as it burned more of the material. The burning synthetic fibers produced large plumes of smoke which are said to have suffocated the eight victims.
Police were unsure how the acrylic materials, which are used in the manufacturing of sweaters in the facility, caught fire. One official speculated that the factory's ironing machinery may have been responsible.
The fire is the second tragedy to hit Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry in less than a month. In late April, the eight-story Rana Plaza building that housed multiple textile mills collapsed, killing hundreds and drawing global attention to the often-times questionable conditions found in international apparel factories. Six months prior, another factory fire in the country killed more than 100.
Two weeks after the Rana Plaza incident, crews are still attempting to clean the wreckage and finding the bodies of more victims. At least 950 people have now been reported killed by the collapse.
Unlike the tragedy in April, the building in yesterday's fire was up to code, and occurred after most of the employees had gone home for the day. Among the victims on Wednesday were the factory's owner and managing director, a senior police official and a the head of a youth league sponsored by Bangladesh's ruling party. The factory director, Mahbubur Rahman, was also on the board of directors of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a powerful trade association in the country.
Several major companies and brands have criticized Bangladesh's manufacturing culture over the past six months. Companies like Adidas and JCPenney, which source clothing from the country, have called for improved conditions and a greater focus on worker safety, while the Walt Disney Company has stopped production of all branded merchandise and pulled out of Bangladesh entirely.
Dov Charney, CEO of manufacturer and supplier American Apparel, added his voice to the cause yesterday, criticizing the working conditions in some countries and encouraging businesses to manufacture and shop domestic. "As labor and transportation costs increase worldwide, exploitation will not only be morally offensive and dated, it will not even be financially viable," he said.
Bangladesh is the second largest garment manufacturer in the world, employing 4 million people, and is taking steps to protect its most lucrative industry. Since the April factory collapse, officials have shut down 18 factories for violating worker rights and safety standards.