More than 100 people died Saturday and Sunday in a fire at a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, in one of the worst industrial tragedies in that country.
Thousands of workers and relatives of those who died in the blaze at Tazreen Fashion factory took to the streets to vent their anger on Monday, demanding better protection. They said that many people were trapped after the fire broke out late on Saturday - the building reportedly lacked fire exits, the BBC reports.
The Nation discovered a document on the factory’s owners website, Tuba Group, that showed the factory received an “orange” rating from Walmart in May 2011, because of “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.”
The Associated Press reports investigators suspect that a short circuit caused the fire.
But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says she thinks the fire had been started on purpose.
“It is not an accident, [it was] planned,” the prime minister said in parliament. She said two people had been detained for trying to burn down a second garment factory on Sunday night.
What’s clear is the conditions in the factory were deadly for workers.
The International Labor Rights Forum reports the fire department operations director, Maj. Mohammad Mahbub said factory had no emergency exits. The Associated Press also confirmed those allegations.
“We hope the tragic fire at Tazreen will serve as an urgent call to action for all major brands that rely on Bangladesh’s low wages to make a profit. Their voluntary and confidential monitoring programs have failed; now it is time to come together and make a contractual commitment to workers and to involve workers and their organizations in the solution,” said Judy Gearhart, the executive director of International Labor Rights Forum.
A Walmart spokesperson told The New York Times that the retail giant had been “unable to confirm” the veracity of Tuba Group document, or whether Tazreen Fashions, the Tuba Group subsidiary running the factory, was supplying any Walmart goods.
But photos taken after the fire taken the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, provided to The Nation by the International Labor Rights Forum, show clothing with Walmart’s exclusive Faded Glory label (photos above).
In addition to finding evidence that the factory produced Walmart’s Faded Glory brand, researchers found over a dozen other brand logos on clothing and documents in the factory, including Ace, C&A, Dickies, Fashion Basics, Sean Combs Co.’s Enyce brand, Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s brands P.G. field and Country Rose, Hippo, Infinity Woman, Karl Rieker GMBH & Co., Kebo Raw, Kik, Piaza Italia, Soffe, and True Desire.
This is the most deadly factory fire in the history of the apparel industry in Bangladesh, which is the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China. Export data indicates that Walmart is the second largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh, after H&M, according to International Labor Rights Forum.