DHAKA: At least eight people have been killed in a fire that swept through a garment-making factory in the Bangladeshi capital, with the owner among the victims, police said on Thursday.
The cause of the fire was not known but authorities said it broke out during the night on the third floor of an 11-storey building housing two garment factories in the capital's Darussalam district.
“There were no workers at the Tung Hai sweater factory when the fire started. It was a big fire. But we managed to confine it on one floor,” Mahbubur Rahman, operations director of the nation's fire service department, told AFP.
He said the victims died of suffocation after rushing into a stairwell and becoming overcome by “toxic smoke from burnt acrylic clothing”.
Local police Chief Khalilur Rahman told AFP the fire killed “eight people including the owner, his four staff, a senior police officer, and a low-level police official.” We have identities of seven people. But we have not identified the eighth,” he said.
The fire is the latest deadly incident to hit Bangladesh's textile industry, after the collapse of a factory complex last month that has left at least 803 dead and triggered the closure of 18 garment plants.
Fire is a common problem in the 4,500 garment factories in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest apparel maker. Many operations are based in badly constructed buildings with substandard electrical wiring.
In November at least 111 people died after a fire engulfed the Tazreen Fashion factory outside Dhaka, in the worst blaze in the history of the country's garment industry.
And in January eight people died in another factory blaze, including two underaged workers as they were making clothing for Spanish retailer Inditex, the parent group of the popular Zara brand.
Around 700 people have been killed in garment factory fires in the country since 2006, according to the Amsterdam-based Clean Clothes Campaign activist group.
The $20 billion garment industry is the mainstay of the impoverished country's economy, accounting for up to 80 per cent of Bangladesh's annual exports last year.
Western retailers have criticised the factories for not ensuring worker safety, but major brands continue to place orders and critics say they turn a blind eye to the endemic problems.