Bangladesh: 52 killed in mill blaze

Rescuers recovered 46 more bodies from the charred debris of a textile mill in south-eastern Bangladesh today, raising the death toll from the devastating fire to 52.

The fire that broke out at the Bangladeshi-owned KTS Textile Mill near the port city of Chittagong also injured more than 150 workers, 82 of whom were taken to hospital, doctors at Chittagong Medical College Hospital said.

More than 1,000 workers, many of them women, were inside when the fire broke out, said Abu Tayeb, an official with a textile manufacturers’ and exporters’ association. Most managed to leave the building on their own, he said.

Rescuers, including villagers and soldiers, were sifting through the rubble searching for survivors or bodies at site of the three-storey building at an industrial park near Chittagong, 135 miles south-east of the capital, Dhaka.

Most of the victims were women who burned to death or suffocated from smoke inhalation, a doctor at the medical college said. Six badly-burnt bodies were found overnight.

The factory had only one main exit and workers had to scramble through a lone narrow stairway to escape, while others jumped from windows, said fire official Rashidul Islam, quoting survivors.

Firefighters took about three hours to control the blaze, which was exacerbated when an electric generator and boiler exploded, fire chiefs said.

Small fires continued to erupt sporadically because of cloth and chemical dyes stored in the basement and wood-and-bamboo scaffolding on the under-construction fourth floor, Islam said.

The fire may have been triggered by sparks from an electric tool, a fire investigator said.

Textiles are Bangladesh’s main export earner, worth £3 billion a year. The industry employs about two million workers, mostly women, and exports mainly to Europe and North America.

Many of the country’s estimated 2,500 textile factories break building codes or safety standards, and, unions claim, may lack emergency exits, fire extinguishers or alarms and first-aid equipment.

At least 95 workers were killed and scores more injured in two separate accidents in garment factories last year.

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