A fire at a garment factory outside the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, has killed at least 111 persons, and injured many others who suffered burns and smoke inhalation. More than 500 Bangladeshi garment workers have died from fires at garment factories, says an article in the New York Times:
It took firefighters more than 17 hours to put out the blaze at the factory, Tazreen Fashions, after it started Saturday evening, a retired fire official said by telephone from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. At least 111 people were killed and scores of workers were taken to hospitals with burns and smoke inhalation injuries.
“The main difficulty was to put out the fire; the sufficient approach road was not there,” said the retired official, Salim Nawaj Bhuiyan, who now runs a fire safety company in Dhaka. “The fire service had to take great trouble to approach the factory.”
Bangladesh’s garment industry, the second largest exporter of clothing after China, has a notoriously poor record of fire safety. Since 2006, more than 500 Bangladeshi workers have died in garment factory fires, according to Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group based in Amsterdam. Experts say many of the fires could have been easily avoided if the factories had taken the right precautions. Many factories are in cramped neighborhoods, have too few fire escapes and widely flout safety measures. The industry employs more than three million workers in Bangladesh, mostly women.
This is reminiscent of what took place in New York City's garment industry a century ago—notably the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, where 146 persons, mostly women, died; many jumped to their death from the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the Asch Building, at 23-29 Washington Place, now known as the Brown Building—a historical landmark. The fire became a symbol of poor workplace standards, and ultimately led to both legislation requiring better safety conditions for factory workers and the catalyst for union representation for workers.