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Bangladesh: Factory owner arrested over deadly blaze

July 10, 2021

At least 52 people were killed when a fire engulfed a factory building where workers were locked inside. Several suspects have been arrested on murder charges.

Workers walk past the charred exterior of the factory where a deadly blaze broke out in Rupganj, Bangladesh
Workers walk past the charred exterior of the factory where a deadly blaze broke out in Rupganj, BangladeshImage: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Bangladesh arrested eight people on Saturday over a fire at a food factory that killed dozens of people.

It's the latest deadly industrial disaster to hit Bangladesh, with officials launching a separate probe into the use of child labor at the factory.

Who was arrested?

Among the eight people arrested on Saturday was the chairman and managing director of the Sajeeb Group, which owns the factory, according to Home Minister Asaduzzman Khan.

The minister's remarks came during a visit to the site of the fire on Saturday in the town of Rupganj located outside of the capital Dhaka.

Khan said what happened to the workers was "murder," echoing statements from police who said the suspects are facing "murder charges."

Four of the chairman's sons were also among those detained, news agency AFP reported, citing local officials.

Unidentified relatives of the victims mourn at the site where a fire broke out at a factory in Rupganj, Bangladesh
Relatives mourn the victims who were killed in the blaze, while others were still waiting for news of their loved ones on SaturdayImage: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

Initial investigations revealed that the main exit of the factory was padlocked, trapping those inside.

Another investigation has also been launched into the use of child labor at the factory, as children between 11- and 14-years-old were found to be working there.

What happened during the fire?

The fire erupted on Thursday night at the Hashem Foods Ltd. Factory, with flames and smoke engulfing the five-story building.

Firefighters worked through Friday to put out the blaze at the building, where highly flammable chemicals were stored.

At least 52 people are confirmed dead, while several others remain missing.

Flames rise the morning after a fire broke out at a factory in Rupganj, Bangladesh
The main exit of the factory was illegally locked, authorities saidImage: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/REUTERS

On one floor alone, rescuers discovered the bodies of 48 people. Family members struggled to identify remains at the morgue while others waited for news of their missing loved ones on Saturday.

Officials have not yet commented on what started the blaze, but said they uncovered several safety violations at the site in addition to the locked exit.

Safety concerns renewed

Bangladesh pledged safety reforms following a series of tragic fires and industrial disasters in recent years.

The Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 in particular sparked the push for reform. Over 1,100 people died when the nine-story complex collapsed.

In 2012, a fire at a garment factory outside of Dhaka killed 112 people. The workers were also trapped behind locked gates at the factory.

A major fire also destroyed shelters at a Cox's Bazar refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims earlier this year.

rs/csb (AFP, AP)