Thousands protest in Bangladesh, blaze draws U.S. scrutiny
By Serajul Quadir and Jessica Wohl
DHAKA/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Thousands of angry textile workers demonstrated in the outskirts of Dhaka on Monday after a fire swept through a garment workshop at the weekend, killing more than 100 people in Bangladesh's worst-ever factory blaze.
The fire has put a spotlight on global retailers that source clothes from Bangladesh, where the cost of labor is low - as little as $37 a month for some workers - and rights groups have called on big-brand firms to sign up to a fire safety program.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, said one of its suppliers subcontracted work to the factory without authorization and would no longer be used. A number of other retailers like Gap Inc and Nike Inc rushed to deny any relationship with the workshop.
Demanding that those responsible for the disaster be punished, workers from Tazreen Fashions and residents blocked roads and forced the closure of other factories in the industrial suburb of Ashulia, where the huge fire started.
"I haven't been able to find my mother," said one worker, who gave her name as Shahida. "I demand justice, I demand that the owner be arrested."
Police and officials said narrow exits in the nine-storey building trapped workers inside, killing 111 people and injuring more than 150.
"This disastrous fire incident was a result of continuing neglect of workers' safety and their welfare," said Amirul Haque Amin, president of Bangladesh's National Garment Workers Federation.
"Whenever a fire or accident occurs, the government sets up an investigation and the authorities - including factory owners - pay out some money and hold out assurances to improve safety standards and working conditions. But they never do it." Continued...