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Fire kills seven in new Bangladesh factory disaster

Bangladeshi firefighters attempt to extinguish a blaze at a garment factory in Dhaka on September 15, 2013/AFP

Bangladeshi firefighters attempt to extinguish a blaze at a garment factory in Dhaka on September 15, 2013/AFP

SRIPUR, Oct 9 – A huge fire at a Bangladeshi factory where workers were making clothes for labels such as Gap and H&M has killed seven people in the latest disaster to blight the country’s garment industry.

Firefighters battled through the night to douse the flames at the Aswad Knit Composite factory at Sripur, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka. Parts of the two-storey building were still smouldering early Wednesday.

Police said that the fire was so intense that most of the bodies that have been recovered were too badly burned to be identified.

Workers said the blaze, which broke out on Tuesday evening, appeared to have been started by a malfunctioning knitting machine which had caught fire on a number of previous occasions.

An AFP correspondent at the scene found work order books containing names of the factory’s clients in September, which included US brand Gap, British retailer Next, Swedish fashion label H&M, Australia’s Target and French supermarket Carrefour.

A fabric swatch book marked with Walmart’s brand George and labels were also seen by AFP.

Revising an earlier death toll which put the number of dead at nine, local police chief Amir Hossain said seven bodies had been recovered after a thorough search of the building.

“Two bodies have been identified and handed over to their relatives. Five other bodies were charred beyond recognition,” he told AFP.

Hossain said that the fire was now “under control” although parts of the building were still smouldering.

A fire at the Tazreen garment factory in Dhaka killed 111 workers last November, the country’s worst such incident.

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Industrial accidents are common in the country, where the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory bloc in April killed 1,129 people in the nation’s worst industrial disaster.

Since then, protests over poor wages, benefits and working conditions have shaken the sector, the country’s economic mainstay.

Although the names of the victims in the latest fire have yet to be released, relatives who had gathered at the factory in Gazipur district feared the worst.

Sumi Akter, 22, said she suspected that her husband Bulbul Islam was among the dead.

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