Dhaka: At least 112 people were killed as a blazing fire gutted an eight−storey garment factory on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital after raging through the night, officials said Sunday.
The tragedy was compounded by the lack of adequate quantity of water the fire service could use to battle the leaping flames, sparking violence by relatives of the poorly paid workers.
The fire −− one of the worst in Bangladesh −− began Saturday evening at Tazreen Fashion, near the Dhaka Export Processing Zone in Ashulia, and was controlled only around 6 a.m. Sunday, the Daily Star reported.
By then, hundreds of wailing relatives of the trapped workers had massed outside.
Some hurled bricks at police Sunday morning, alleging delay in the rescue operation.
Industrial Police's Deputy Director Moktar Hossain told bdnews24.com that his men used baton and tear gas to control the violence.
Asked about the reason behind the delay in controlling the fire, Fire Brigade Director General Abu Nayeem Mohammad Sahidullah pointed out that there was "lack of water" in the area.
Officials told Xinhua that the blaze began at the cotton warehouse on the second floor of the factory, probably due to an electrical short−circuit, and quickly engulfed the entire building.
There were conflicting figures about the number of workers who were inside the building.
While Xinhua put the figure at around 4,000, with 3,000 managing to escape, other media reports put the number at only around 300.
By Sunday afternoon, the death toll was put at 109. Three more people were found dead later.
A fire brigade official told Daily Star that 100 charred bodies had been recovered from three of the floors. Among them 69 bodies were found at the fourth floor.
"It is hard to identify the bodies as those were burnt badly," a distraught official said. The death toll could rise as many were reported missing.
Another 100 people had suffered burns and other injuries. Many were in shock.
Bangladesh's garments industry is a powerhouse second only to China in global apparel exports. Leading global brands source apparel from the many thriving factories in Bangladesh.
Police and some witnesses had Saturday said that those killed died after jumping off different floors of the eight−storey building.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said it will provide taka 1 lakh ($12,300) to the kin of each of the dead.
Police have announced a committee to probe the tragedy. The home ministry would form another probe team.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia expressed shock and mourned the deaths.
In 2007, at least 50 workers were killed in a blaze at a garment factory in the southeastern city of Chittagong.