Bangladesh mourns, calls factory fire "act of sabotage"

Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:45pm EST
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By Anis Ahmed and Nivedita Bhattacharjee

DHAKA/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bangladesh said a fire that killed 111 textile workers was sabotage, as protesters took to the streets for a second day on Tuesday and garment factories across the world's second-biggest clothes exporter stopped work to mourn.

Meanwhile two other incidents this week, neither of which caused injuries, had local manufacturing leaders scrambling to assess whether their industry was under attack.

Saturday's 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 firms to sign up to a fire safety program.

U.S. retailer Sears Holdings Corp said its clothing was not meant to be made in that textile factory, and was investigating reports that one of its brands had been found in the charred debris. Other brands, such as Esprit Holdings Ltd, continued to deny any connection and distanced themselves from the disaster.

The country's worst-ever industrial blaze consumed a multi-story building of a Tazreen Fashions factory. More than 150 workers were injured.

The interior minister, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, said that, according to a preliminary inquiry, the fire was the result of arson. He promised to bring the culprits to justice.

"We have come to the conclusion that it was an act of sabotage. We are finding out as of now who exactly the saboteurs are and all culprits will be brought to book," Alamgir said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she suspected the fire was an act of sabotage, but she did not identify any suspect or say why she thought the cause might have been arson.   Continued...

A worker cries during a protest against the death of her colleagues after a devastating fire in a garment factory which killed more than 100 people, in Savar November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj