Dozens Die as Another Factory Fire Strikes Bangladesh

The blaze, at a seven-story building where fruit drinks, packing materials and plastic products were made, burned for nearly 24 hours.


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DHAKA, Bangladesh — At least 51 people died in a fire on Thursday evening at an industrial building outside the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, the latest disaster in a country with a long history of unsafe working conditions in its factories.

The authorities warned that the death toll could rise as firefighters continued to sift through the wreckage. The fire, at a seven-story building that is home to at least three factories making fruit drinks, packing materials and plastic products, burned for nearly 24 hours until it was extinguished on Friday afternoon.

Two people inside the building, in the district of Narayanganj, about 10 miles southeast of Dhaka, leapt to their deaths trying to escape the fire, officials said. Emergency workers recovered 49 additional bodies, and at least 25 people were rescued, most of them with injuries.

“We have worked so hard to control the fire,” said Dinmoni Sharma, the deputy director of the fire department in Dhaka. “Many are still missing, and we fear that there are more dead bodies. We are still working to recover them.”

He said that many missing-person reports had been filed by relatives of the factory workers, some of whom gathered in front of the building.

The owner and operator of the building, and the working conditions inside of it, were not immediately clear. The district magistrate, Mostain Billah, said that an inquiry would try to determine the cause of the fire. Officials said they suspected that it started in a ground-floor storage area.

Deadly fires have plagued Bangladeshi factories, especially those in its garment industry, which accounts for about 80 percent of the country’s exports.

A large fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory killed 112 people in November 2012. The next April, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building killed 1,134 people in the garment industry’s biggest disaster in Bangladesh.

Despite a public outcry after the tragedies, working conditions in garment factories have remained largely unchanged. Between 2012 and 2019, there were more than 150 fire and other safety episodes connected to the country’s garment industry, according to the Solidarity Center, a workers’ rights organization.

A total of more than 1,300 people died in those incidents, and more than 3,800 people were injured.

Saif Hasnat reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Emily Schmall from New Delhi.

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