Bangladesh factory fire claims 137 lives

Nov. 25, 2012 at 4:54 PM

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- At least 137 people were believed to be dead after fire swept through a clothing factory outside Dhaka, Bangladeshi officials said Sunday.

The Press Trust of India said officials had recovered 124 bodies from the Tazrin Fashion factory in Ashulia Savar, about 18 miles outside the capital city. The fire started Saturday night and quickly moved through the lower floors of the building.

Abu Naim Mohammad Shahidullah, director general of fire service and civil defense, told reporters an electrical short circuit may have been to blame for the fire, though an investigation would be conducted to determine the cause.

The fire left scores of workers trapped on the upper floors while rescue crews contended with difficult access to the area, officials said.

"The main difficulty was to put out the fire; the sufficient approach road was not there," Salim Nawaj Bhuiyan, a retired fire official who now runs a fire safety company in Dhaka, told The New York Times. "The fire service had to take great trouble to approach the factory."

The army was also on the scene. Troops were seen in television footage carrying out bodies of the victims while a crowd of hundreds of onlookers watched, the Press Trust of India said.

The Times said Bangladesh's thriving garment industry has been experiencing growing tensions between factory owners and workers who are among the lowest paid in the world. A union organizer was tortured and killed earlier this year by unknown culprits who dumped his body outside Dhaka.

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