At least 52 people have died, Another 20 have been injured and it is feared that many more have been trapped after a fire that swept through a food factory in Bangladesh, authorities said Friday.
The fire started Thursday night on the ground floor of a six-story factory in Narayanganj district, 20 km southeast of the capital Dhaka. The factory is managed by private company Hashem Food and Beverage, which is a franchise in Bangladesh of the multinational Sajeeb Group, which makes mango drinks under the Shezan brand.
“Three people were killed jumping from the building to escape the fire and so far 49 charred bodies have been recovered,” Narayanganj district administrator Mustain Billah told Reuters. The upper floor is still burning. Firefighters are struggling to control it as chemicals and flammable materials were stored inside the building. ‘ He said the cause of the fire is not yet known.
“Plastics, flammable substances and chemicals made it difficult to extinguish the fire,” he said. Abdullah Al Arefin, a district fire service official, added that the strong heat from the fire caused cracks in the building.
Al Arefin said that each floor of the building is roughly 35,000 square feet (3,250 square meters), but could only be accessed by two stairs and that many workers were unable to get out when the fire spread to the stairs. One of the doors leading from the stairs to the ceiling was locked, he said.
“We rescued 25 people after placing a ladder on the roof. We could have saved more if others had been able to get to the rooftop, “he said. Debashish Bardhan, deputy director of the national fire service.
Jump from the upper floors
Many workers were injured trying to jump from the second and third floors of the building to escape, he said. Shah Alam, another district fire service official.
Hashem Foods and Sajeeb Group officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
While the relatives of the disappeared protests were staging at the factory site, a mother searching for her son, Nazma Begum, shouted, “There is no justice! Where is my son?”.
Narayanganj, in central Bangladesh, is packed with factories that make everything from jute to textiles. Disasters due to poor fire safety and construction standards are common in Bangladesh, mainly in the textile sector which employs millions of people and is the largest contributor to its economy.
Industry officials promised better safety standards after the 2012 Rana Plaza clothing factory building collapse in Dhaka that killed more than 1,000 workers and injured hundreds. But many factories inside and outside the textile sector still fall short, leading to accidents every year.
The Narayanganj district administration has formed a five-member investigative committee to examine the incident, Al Arefin said.