25 killed in factory blaze

2010-12-14 13:04

Dhaka, Bangladesh – A devastating blaze raced through a multi-storey garment factory near Bangladesh’s capital today, killing as many as 25 people and injuring more than 100, witnesses and news reports said.

Fire official Golam Mostafa said the fire started in a 10-storey factory owned by local business giant Hameem Group in the Ashulia industrial zone, just outside Dhaka.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.

Local journalist Rafiqul Islam told The Associated Press by phone from the scene he saw at least 25 bodies being loaded onto ambulances.

Diganta television reported at least 20 people died and more than 100 were injured. ATN News said rescuers recovered at least 11 bodies.

Monir Hossain, another journalist on the scene, said the blaze broke out on the two upper floors during lunch break. A gate on a stairwell was locked, trapping people inside, he quoted witnesses as saying.

Islam said some 13 000 people work at the factory each day, though most were outside buying lunch when the fire started. Officials predicted the death toll would rise, he said.

Mostafa said army soldiers joined the rescue operation.

Bangladesh has about 4 000 garment factories that export more than $10 billion (R68 billion) worth of products a year, mainly to the United States and Europe.

Recent protests by low-paid garment workers have gripped the country. Workers demanding the implementation of a new minimum wage clashed with police at an industrial zone in southeastern Bangladesh on Sunday, leaving up to three people dead and 100 hurt.

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