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Dhaka workers highlight safety flaws after fatal blaze

Bangladeshi garment industry workers have barricaded roads near Dhaka to demand safety improvements after a factory blaze that killed at least 109 workmates. The factory made clothes for well-known global retail giants.

Survivors of Saturday's deadly blaze at the Tazreen Fashion plant were joined by thousands of workers from other Dhaka textile factories on Monday. They demanded that the authorities prosecute those responsible.

Police said 48 of the victims had so far been identified. DNA sampling was also in progress to identify those who were burned too badly to be recognized. Survivors demanded that police check the death toll, saying some co-workers were still missing.

Safety flaws

Mostly female employees said they had difficulty fleeing the nine-storey factory which was built in 2009. Stairwells led to the ground floor where the fire broke out. Some opted to jump from windows and roofs.

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Survivors describe blaze

A government chief inspector quoted by the news agency AFP said permission had only been granted for a three-floor construction.

"We gave them permission to build a three-storey factory. But they expanded the building without any approval from us," said chief inspector Habibul Islam.

"Most workers are in shock. They want to see safety improvements to these deathtrap factories," said Babul Akter, the head of Bangladesh's garment workers union. "We have become a huge garment exporter in the last decade, but it has come at the expense of workers' lives."

Factory supplied giant retailers

The Tuba Group, which owns the Tazreen plant, said on its website that its factories made clothes for global retail giants such as Walmart, IKEA, Carrefour and C&A.

A spokesman at the Dusseldorf headquarters of C&A, Thorsten Rolfes, told the German news agency DPA that the Tazreen factory had had a contract to produce 220,000 sweatshirts for delivery in Brazil.

C&A and Hong Kong company Li & Fung, another Tazreen client, both expressed their deep condolences at the deaths.

On Monday, Bangladeshi firefighters were called to a second blaze at another multi-storey garment factory on Dhaka's outskirts. A fire services spokesman said this fresh blaze was not fatal although eight workers had been injured by heavy smoke.

Bangladesh has some 4,500 garment factories. Garments make up 80 percent of the impoverished nation's 18.5 billion euros ($24 billion) in annual exports.

ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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