Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, fired a supplier that made apparel at a Bangladesh factory where more than 110 people died in the country’s deadliest ever blaze at a garment facility.
“The Tazreen factory was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for Wal-Mart,” Kevin Gardner, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies. Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier.”
Gardner declined to name the supplier.
The factory, owned by Tazreen Fashion, had no emergency exits, and many workers were burnt alive, as they got trapped in heavy smoke, said Muhammad Mahboob, a director at the Fire Service and Civil Defense.
Some workers jumped from the eight-story building to escape the flames, according to Mohammad Sharif, who runs a local grocery store and whose parents-in-law worked at the plant.
At least 124 people were killed in the fire on Saturday, said Habibur Rahman, superintendent of police for Dhaka. Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, estimates the death toll at 113.
Textiles contribute more than 10 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP and about 80 percent of the nation’s exports, mainly to the US and the EU, according to the manufacturers’ association.
Bangladesh’s High Court on Monday opened a probe into the nation’s worst garment factory fire. After four human rights organizations filed a writ petition, two judges in a ruling asked the government to explain what steps it has taken to implement an earlier High Court directive to ensure the safety of garment workers.
The factory that burned down has produced apparel for Li & Fung, which has said it is in contact with the factory’s owner and that it will conduct its own investigation.
Wal-Mart has visited supplier factories to identify those deemed “high risk for fire safety hazards,” it said on its Web site. Last year the company stopped working with 49 factories in Bangladesh due to fire safety issues, it said.
Meanwhile, Bangladeshi Interior Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir yesterday said 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.
More than 1,000 workers, some carrying black flags, demonstrated in the Ashulia industrial belt on the outskirts of the capital where the factory is located. They blocked traffic moving on a highway and vowed to avenge the deaths of their colleagues, witnesses said.
Hundreds of protesters, mostly from labor and rights groups, also gathered in the capital demanding to know the cause of the fire and calling for punishment of those responsible.
All of Bangladesh’s garment factories were closed yesterday as the nation observed a day of mourning.
Additional reporting by Reuters