Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Bangladesh fire: Wal-Mart distances itself

27 November 2012, 08:35

Dhaka — The garment factory in Bangladesh where a weekend fire killed at least 112 people had been making clothes for Wal-Mart without the giant US retailer's knowledge, Wal-Mart said.

Wal-Mart said the Tazreen Fashions Limited factory was no longer authorised to produce merchandise for Wal-Mart but that a supplier subcontracted work to it "in direct violation of our policies".

"Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier," America's biggest retailer said in its statement on Monday. "The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh."

The blaze on Saturday was one of the deadliest fires at a garment factory in Bangladesh and highlighted how its garment factories often ignore safety in the rush to supply major retailers in the US and Europe.

More than 300 people have died over the past six years in garment factory fires in the South Asian country.

Survivors of the weekend fire said an exit door was locked, fire extinguishers didn't work and apparently were there just to impress inspectors, and that when the fire alarm went off, bosses told workers to return to their sewing machines.

15 000 protest

Victims were trapped or jumped to their deaths from the eight-storey building, which had no emergency exits.

On Monday, about 15 000 Bangladeshi workers protested blocks from the gutted building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, demanding justice for the victims and improved safety.

Around 200 factories were closed for the day after the protest erupted. Demonstrators blocked a major highway, threw stones at factories and smashed vehicles.

Labour leaders hope outrage over the latest disaster will prompt change. Tahmina Rahman, general secretary of the Bangladesh Garment Workers Federation, said government needs to do more to punish factories for safety lapses.

"The owners go unpunished and so they don't care about installing enough security facilities," she said. "The owners should be held responsible and sent to jail."

Wal-Mart did not say why it dropped the Tazreen factory. But in its 2012 Global Responsibility report, Wal-Mart said it stopped working with 49 factories in Bangladesh in 2011 because of fire safety issues.

Complex chain

And online records appear to indicate the Tazreen factory was given a "high risk" safety rating after an inspection in May 2011 and a "medium risk" rating in August 2011.

For more than a day after the fire, Wal-Mart said it could not confirm whether it was still doing business with Tazreen, which was making T-shirts and polo shirts.

The uncertainty illustrated how major retailers in the US and Europe rely on a highly complex chain of foreign manufacturers and middlemen to keep their shelves stocked.

Tazreen Fashions is a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, a major Bangladeshi garment exporter whose clients include Wal-Mart, Carrefour and IKEA, according to its website.

Its factories supply garments to the US, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, among other countries. The Tazreen factory opened in 2009 and employed about 1 700 people.

Neither Tazreen nor Tuba Group officials could be reached for comment.

Claims of sabotage

Major Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, said investigators suspect a short circuit caused the fire.

But the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association urged investigators not to rule out sabotage.

"Local and international conspirators are trying to destroy our garment industry," association President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said. He provided no details.

Mahbub said it was the lack of safety measures in the building that made the blaze so deadly. "Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," he said.

He said firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building. Local media reported that about 100 injured people were being treated at hospitals.

The government was unable to identify many victims because they were burned beyond recognition; they were buried on Monday in a grave outside Dhaka. The government said Tuesday will be a day of national mourning, with the flag lowered to half-staff.

$20bn in garment exports

Mohammad Ripu said he tried to run out of the building when the fire alarm rang but was stopped.

"Managers told us, 'Nothing happened. The fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work,'" Ripu said. "But we quickly understood that there was a fire. As we again ran for the exit point we found it locked from outside, and it was too late."

Ripu said he jumped from a second-floor window and suffered minor injuries.

Another worker, Yeamin, who uses only one name, said fire extinguishers in the factory didn't work, and "were meant just to impress the buyers or authority".

TV footage showed a team of investigators finding some unused fire extinguishers inside the factory.

Bangladesh has around 4 000 garment factories. The country earns about $20bn a year from exports of garments, mainly to the US and Europe.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said it would stand by the victims' families and offered $1 250 to each of the families of the dead.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...