Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)
DHAKA – A massive fire apparently set by angry workers – engulfed one of Bangladesh’s largest garment factories, destroying the nine-story building, in the wake of rumours that two of their colleagues had been killed in a clash with police.
Fires broke out at two Standard Group buildings in the industrial district of Gazipur outside the capital Dhaka at around midnight following clashes between workers and members of the management.
Police rushed to the spot and fired rubber bullet and teargas shells to disperse the workers, triggering a clash, said Shawkat Kabir, inspector of Gazipur industrial police.
No casualties were reported due to the fire as it was closed at the time.
Twelve fire tenders from seven stations brought the fire under control after 12 hours, said Aktaruzzaman Liton, deputy assistant director of Gazipur Fire Service.
The two workers had allegedly been killed during demonstrations to demand higher wages and better work conditions, Daily Star newspaper reported.
The workers also torched 31 vehicles inside the compound of which, 18 covered vans were fully loaded with products, a senior general manager at the factory said.
A Reuters photographer on site said burnt garments found at the scene sported brand names from U.S. retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Gap Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Brands for Sears Canada Inc. were also spotted, according to Reuters. Sears Canada officials were not immediately available to confirm the factory made product for them.
Harsh and often dangerous working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry have raised concerns globally over the use of suppliers in the area by high-profile U.S., Canadian and European retailers.
Retailers, including Loblaw Cos. Ltd. which markets a line of clothes under the Joe Fresh banner signed on to a new accord on fire and building safety after the tragic collapse of an eight storey building in April .
Bangladesh pulls in about $20-billion (U.S.) a year almost 80 per cent of the country’s total export earnings from garment exports, mostly to the United States and Europe.
Two months ago, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in clashes with thousands of clothing workers who are demanding higher minimum wages. Bangladesh’s garment sector, the world’s second biggest after China, has been plagued by worker unrest on demands of better wages and work conditions.
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