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Central & South Asia

Arrests made after Bangladesh factory blaze

Three mid-level managers held for preventing workers from leaving factory premises after fire alarm went offf.
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2012 03:06

Police in Bangladesh have arrested three managers of a factory where a fire killed at least 110 people.

The managers arrested overnight on Tuesday were accused of stopping workers from leaving the plant, saying an alarm was just a routine fire drill.

"All three are mid-level managers of Tazreen. Survivors told us that they did not allow the workers to escape the fire, saying that it was a routine fire drill. There are also allegations that they even padlocked doors," Habibur Rahman, head of police in the capital Dhaka, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

Dulal Uddin, an administrative officer, Hamidul Islam, store room head, and Al Amin, a security officer in charge at the time of the Saturday evening blaze, apparently told workers of Tazreen Fashion that they had nothing to worry about when the fire started.

Survivors and witnesses told AFP that workers, most of them women, tried to escape the burning factory, which supplied clothes to international brands including Walmart, European chain C&A and the Hong Kong-based Li & Fung company.

Order books and clothing found at the site show the company was also making clothing for Disney Pixar, Sears and other Western brands.

The Associated Press news agency reports that blue and off-white shorts from ENYCE, the label now owned by Hip Hop mogul Sean 'Diddy' Combs, were piled and stacked in cartons on the floor.

Rahman said police also questioned Delwar Hossain, owner of Tazreen, about alleged violations of building rules after inspectors found the nine-storey factory only had permission for three floors.

Around 700 garment workers have been killed in dozens of fires since 2006,  according to the Clean Clothes Campaign, an Amsterdam-based textile rights group.

But none of the owners have been prosecuted over previous blazes.

Campaigners say Western firms whose clothes are made in Bangladesh hide behind inadequate safety audits in an effort to shave costs.

After European chain C&A and Hong Kong-based Li & Fung confirmed they had orders at Tazreen, the US retail giant Walmart also acknowledged some of its products were made there and said it had terminated ties with the supplier.

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