At least 121 people died when fire swept through a factory in the worst-ever blaze to hit Bangladesh's garment industry, officials said Sunday, as witnesses told of desperate workers jumping from upper floors.
Firefighters battled for several hours to contain the blaze, which broke out on the ground floor of the nine-storey Tazreen Fashion plant 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital Dhaka late on Saturday.
The death toll soared to at least 121 as rescue workers recovered 112 bodies Sunday morning, the national fire chief told AFP.
Survivors told how panicked staff, most of them women, tried to escape the burning factory, which made clothes for international brands including the European chain C&A and the Hong Kong-based Li & Fung company.
Bangladesh is a global centre for clothes manufacturing due to its cheap labour, with many popular brands using huge factories to produce items for export to Western markets. But work conditions are often basic and safety standards low.
The blaze was the worst that the nation's garment industry had ever suffered, said Kalpona Akter, director of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity.
Tuba Group, the parent company of Tazreen Fashion, said on its website that the factory opened in 2009 and employed 1,630 workers making polo shirts, T-shirts and jackets.
It also said its factories make clothes for Walmart, Carrefour and IKEA, and added that the Tazreen plant had 60 smoke detectors and more than 200 fire extinguishers.
A police investigation was under way and no cause had been identified, but fires as a result of short-circuits and shoddy electrical wiring are common in South Asian factories.
A blaze in a Pakistan garment factory in September killed 289 workers and injured 110 more. Two of the owners are facing murder charges.
According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, a Amsterdam-based textile rights group, at least 500 Bangladeshi garment workers have died since 2006 in factory fires.
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