News / Asia

Bangladesh Mourns Factory Fire Victims

Bangladeshi people identify the bodies of their relatives died in a fire at a garment factory in the Savar neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 25, 2012.
Bangladeshi people identify the bodies of their relatives died in a fire at a garment factory in the Savar neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 25, 2012.
Anjana Pasricha
Bangladesh is mourning the deaths of victims of a blaze that engulfed a garment factory as concerns grow about unsafe conditions in the country’s thriving garment industry, which has become a major hub for global retailers.  
 
Flags flew at half staff, factories were shut and prayers were held as Dhaka observed a day of mourning for the victims of a fire that ripped through the Tazreen factory on the outskirts of the city.    
 
In a statement, U.S. retail giant Walmart, said that the factory had been making clothes sold in its stores without its knowledge. It says a supplier had subcontracted work to the plant without its authorization. Walmart says it will continue to work with the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training.
 
Bangladesh’s apparel industry has become a key supplier to global retailers in recent years. But it is plagued with problems that are attracting international scrutiny. 


  • Garment workers and leaders shout slogans as they protest the deaths of their colleagues after a devastating fire in a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 27, 2012.
  • Bangladeshi garments workers protest to mourn the death of the victims of Saturday's fire in a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 27, 2012.
  • Hundreds of Bangladeshi mourners watch as the bodies of victims of Saturday's fire in a garment factory are buried in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 27, 2012.
  • Bangladeshis prepare to bury the bodies of some of the victims of Saturday's fire in a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 27, 2012.
  • Workers try to break the gate of a garment factory during a protest against the death of their colleagues after a fire in another garment factory killed more than 100 people, in Savar, Bangladesh, November 26, 2012.
  • Bangladeshis protest outside a garment-factory where a fire killed more than 100 people Saturday on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 26, 2012.

Concerns are widespread about the poor wages paid to  workers - $37 a month. But the recent fire has highlighted another problem - lax safety standards at hundreds of factories, as they rush to fill orders.  
 
Zafrul Hasan at the Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies in Dhaka says it is widely acknowledged that working conditions are inadequate at many factories.
 
“It is common knowledge there are many other premises where in case this type of accident takes place, there will be similar consequence," said Hasan. "Most of the factories, they are not equipped enough to deal with such hazards. Our electrical equipment are not up to the mark. It is a big management negligence.” 
 
The cause of Saturday’s fire has not been established, but investigators suspect a short circuit in the electrical wiring. Survivors of the blaze say an exit door was locked, trapping hundreds of workers. Many jumped to their deaths. Survivors say fire extinguishers did not work and bundles of fabrics and yarn stacked in passages had ignited, turning escape routes into death traps.
 
Saturday’s blaze was the deadliest in a garment factory in Bangladesh, but there have been others. Some 200 people have died in fires in the garment industry since 2006.
 
Hasan says the industry needs more stringent regulation.    
 
“The inspection mechanism in most cases, they don’t properly inspect whether everything is properly in place," said Hasan. "They say they do have enough manpower to inspect all the industries and sometimes the employers influence to make some kind of relaxation.”
 
Representatives of the Bangladesh garment industry and the government say sabotage could not be ruled out. But the latest blaze will bring the government under pressure to monitor safety lapses more closely in an industry that earns about $24 billion annually and accounts for about 80 percent of the country’s exports.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs