Bangladesh mourns factory fire victims

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 27, 2012 11:50 hrs

Dhaka, Nov 27 (IANS) National flags across Bangladesh flew at half−mast Tuesday as the country observed a national mourning day for over 100 people who lost their lives in a devastating fire at a garment factory and in a flyover collapse.

Flags were flown at half−mast at offices of all government, semi−government and autonomous and academic institutions as well as in other important buildings, Xinhua reported.

The fire at the factory in Ashulia on the outskirts of Dhaka claimed at least 111 lives and 12 others perished in the flyover collapse in the southeastern port city of Chittagong, according to official figures.

The government also declared a day off at all ready−made garment factories across the country Tuesday.

The decisions were taken at a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Special prayers were offered Tuesday at mosques, temples, pagodas, churches and other places of worship.

Thousands of garment workers in Dhaka and other places in the country took part in mourning processions, demanding punishment to the owners of the garments factory where the tragedy occurred.

Officials said samples were collected from the severely burnt bodies for DNA tests so as to identify them.

The unidentified bodies will be buried at a graveyard in Dhaka by Anjuman−e−Mofidul Islam, a charity arranging funerals for unidentified deceased.

Hasina Monday night said the fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd. was set in a planned way.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association also spoke about plots to set the factory ablaze in an attempt to create anarchy.

Some workers who escaped by jumping from windows said factory authorities had barred them from running to safety after the fire alarm went off.

Some survivors said they found two of the three staircases leading to the ground floor were locked.

Prime Minister Hasina said police captured a woman trying to set a factory ablaze at Ashulia.

Sumi Begum was paid 20,000 taka (about $250) for torching a building.

The man who paid her has been arrested, Hasina said.

"It is not an accident, (it was) planned. The incident takes place when it is the time for (global) buyers to come and sign contracts," she said.

Bangladesh has about 4,000 garment factories which employ approximately three million people, 80 percent of whom are women.

In the last fiscal year (July 2011−June 2012), Bangladesh earned about $20 billion from exports of garments.

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