DHAKA: Bangladesh on Tuesday called off a search for survivors after an explosion at a garment factory killed at least 13 workers and injured scores, the latest disaster to hit the multi-billion dollar industry.

Dozens of workers were inside the factory on the outskirts of Dhaka when the boiler exploded on Monday evening, causing a section of the six-storey building to collapse.

It was unclear what caused the explosion, which occurred during maintenance work on the boiler at a time when most of the factory’s 5,000 workers were off for the Eid holidays.

Authorities called off the nearly 22-hour-long search after rescuers found two more bodies in a toilet next to the destroyed boiler room, bringing the death toll to 13.

The government said it had formed a committee to investigate the explosion, the latest disaster to strike the country’s $30-billion garment industry.

The plant in the Gazipur industrial district is owned by manufacturer Multifabs, which makes clothing for brands including Littlewoods and Aldi according to its website.

The collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza factory complex in April 2013 in which more than 1,100 people were killed was seen as a wake-up call for the industry, which supplies clothing for major brands all over the world.

One of the injured workers receiving treatment at nearby hospitals blamed the factory authorities for not replacing the boiler despite the fact that it was allegedly “beeping danger signals continuously”.

Worker Harunur Rashid told Bangla daily Prothom Alo that the boiler’s safety bulb was beeping danger lights but the device’s operators assured them there was nothing to worry about.

“Within ten minutes after we returned to work, the boiler exploded. It’s absolutely the authorities’ negligence,” he said.

Mesba Faruqui, the operations director of the factory, said the operators were doing maintenance duty as the factory was meant to open on Tuesday after the long Eid holidays.

“If the accident had happened today, God forbid, there might have been many more casualties,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2017

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