Fire exits reported locked as factory blaze leaves 123 dead

Mon, Nov 26, 2012, 00:00

Survivors have described how a fire tore through a multistorey garment factory on Saturday night just outside Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, killing more than 100 of their colleagues in one of the worst such incidents in recent years.

Mohammad Shahbul Alam (26) described flames filling two of the three stairwells of the nine-floor building – where clothes for international brands appear to have been made – shortly after the fire alarm was raised.

Rooms full of female workers were cut off as piles of yarn and fabric filling corridors ignited. Reports also suggested fire exits at the site had locks on, which had to be broken in order for staff to escape.

“It was 6.45pm when the fire alarm was raised. I rushed out. I heard that [grills blocking the way to] the second and third floors were locked. When I came down, I saw fire at both the stairways that the ladies used. I still have not found any trace of my sister-in-law,” said Alam. Worker Zakir Hossain said management told employees not to evacuate immediately. Twelve workers died in hospital from injuries sustained in falls, officials said, bringing the overall toll to 123 dead and more than 150 injured. – (Guardian service)