The blaze began Thursday night at the five-story Hashem Foods Ltd. factory, in Rupganj, just outside Dhaka, sending huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Police initially gave a toll of three dead, but then discovered piles of bodies on Friday afternoon after the fire was extinguished.
So far 52 bodies have been recovered, but the top two floors of the factory have yet to be searched, said Debasish Bardhan, deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defense.
He said the main exit of the factory was locked from the inside and many of those who died were trapped.
Many workers jumped from the upper floors of the factory, and at least 26 suffered injuries, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported.
Information about how many people were in the factory and how many were missing was not immediately available.
“For now, we only have these details. After searching the top floors we will be able to get a complete picture,” Bardhan said.
Bangladesh has a tragic history of industrial disasters, including factories catching fire with the workers locked inside. Continuing corruption and lax enforcement have resulted in many deaths over the years, and big international brands, which employ tens of thousands of low-paid workers in Bangladesh, have come under heavy pressure to improve factory conditions after fires and other disasters killed thousands of people.
The factory that caught fire Thursday was subsidiary of Sajeeb Group, a Bangladeshi company that produces juice under Pakistan’s Lahore-based Shezan International Ltd., said Kazi Abdur Rahman, the group’s senior general manager for export.
According to the group’s website, the company exports its products to a number of countries including Australia, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Nepal and nations in the Middle East and Africa.
Rahman told The Associated Press by phone that the company is fully compliant with international standards, but he was not certain whether the exit of the factory was locked. According to Bangladesh’s factory laws, a factory cannot lock its exit when workers are inside during production hours.
“We are a reputed company; we maintain rules,” he said. “What happened today is very sad. We regret it.”
As the recovery effort was carried out Friday, victims in white body bags were piled in a fleet of ambulances as relatives wailed. As the heavy smoke continued to rise from the still smoldering factory, weeping family members of missing workers waited anxiously for news of loved ones outside the charred site.
Earlier, family members clashed with police as they waited overnight without any word of the fate of their loved ones.
The government ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire.
Past industrial tragedies have often been attributed to safety lapses that still plague the South Asian country despite its rapid economic growth.
In 2012, about 117 workers died when they were trapped behind locked exits in a garment factory in Dhaka.
The country’s worst Industrial disaster came the following year, when the Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.
Authorities imposed tougher safety rules after that disaster and the country’s garment industry has since become largely compliant under domestic and global watchdogs. But many other local industries fail to maintain safety compliance and the disasters have continued.
In February 2019, a blaze ripped through a 400-year-old area cramped with apartments, shops and warehouses in the oldest part of Dhaka and killed at least 67 people. Another fire in Old Dhaka in a house illegally storing chemicals killed at least 123 people in 2010.
The International Labor Organization said in a 2017 report that Bangladesh’s regulatory framework and inspections “had not been able to keep pace with the development of the industry.”
With 73 new fatalities, Pakistan's COVID-19 death count nears 27,000
Islamabad: Pakistan is witnessing daily surge in COVID-19 cases with authorities linking the upswing to the deadly fourth wave. Today country’s positivity rate is on 4.78%.
As per National Command and Control Center (NCOC), around 2,714 cases of coronavirus were reported while 73 people succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 26,938.
Pakistan conducted a total of 56,733 tests in the last 24 hours.
As per the NCOC, total confirmed cases are 1,212,809 whereas 5,122 are under critical care.
The number of patients swelled to 416,901 in the province with 12,291 causalities.
The number of infections has surged to 446,840 in the province, while the death toll has reached 7,192.
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There are 32,658 confirmed cases while 344 patients have died from the infection so far.
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Pakistan records dip in daily new COVID-19 cases
Islamabad: Pakistan has reported 2,928 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours, the lowest spike in daily new infections in nearly a week.
Pakistan is presently experiencing the fourth wave of coronavirus which is said to be deadlier and more contagious than previous three COVID waves.
According to National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), around 2,928 cases of coronavirus were reported while 68 people succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 27,072.
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The number of patients swelled to 419,423 in the province with 12,345 causalities.
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As per National Command and Control Center (NCOC), Pakistan conducted a total of 57,792 tests in the last 24 hours.
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