Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Textile mill fire kills 52 and injures over 150 in Bangladesh


Rescuers recovered 46 more bodies from the charred debris of a textile mill in southeastern Bangladesh yesterday, raising the death toll from the devastating fire to 52, officials said.

The fire that broke out late on Thursday at the Bangladeshi-owned KTS Textile Mill near the port city of Chittagong also injured more than 150 workers, 82 of whom were hospitalized, doctors at Chittagong Medical College Hospital said.

More than 1,000 workers, many of them women, were inside when the fire broke out, said Abu Tayeb, an official of a textile manufacturers' and exporters' association. Most managed to leave the building on their own, he said.

Rescuers, including villagers and soldiers, were sifting through the rubble searching for survivors or bodies at the site of the three-story building at an industrial park near Chittagong, about 215km southeast of the capital, Dhaka.

Most of the victims were women who burned to death or died from smoke inhalation, a doctor at the medical college said.

The factory had only one main exit, and workers had to scramble through a lone narrow stairway to escape, while others jumped from windows, said fire official Rashidul Islam, quoting survivors.

Firefighters took about three hours to control Thursday's blaze, which was exacerbated when an electric generator and boiler exploded, fire officials said.

Small fires continued to erupt sporadically, because of cloth and chemical dyes stored in the basement and wood-and-bamboo scaffolding on the under-construction fourth floor, Islam said.

The fire may have been triggered by sparks from an electric tool, a fire investigator said.

Police cordoned off the factory to prevent relatives and looters from rushing in, and local authorities ordered other nearby factories to stay shut.

Many of the country's estimated 2,500 textile factories are built in violation of building codes or safety standards, and labor unions claim that many lack emergency exits, fire extinguishers or alarms and first-aid equipment.

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