Dhaka, Bangladesh – A Bangladesh factory fire last weekend that killed more than 120 workers has sparked massive protests in the city as outraged residents demand justice following the fatal and tragic blaze.
The Bangladesh factory fire broke out in an region with more than 4,000 garment factories crafting low-priced wares for international brands such as Tesco, Walmart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, and Kohl’s, but worker safety has long been part of the price paid for mass retail’s attractive deals.
Outraged Bangladeshi protesters reportedly flooded the streets of Dhaka in the thousands Monday, attacking vehicles and lobbing rocks through windows as they decried the conditions that led to the fatal conflagration.
The death toll from the Bangladesh factory fire is not yet known, but one worker, identified only as Shahida, told reporters her mother was among the missing, suggesting that the count may rise higher as the blaze is investigated:
“I haven’t been able to find my mother … I demand justice. I demand that the owner be arrested.”
As thousands protest in Bangladesh against factory conditions that allow for workers to be put in danger to maximize profits, a sad and scary tale of conditions inside the sweatshop is emerging, suggesting that even as the deadly flames raged, workers were cautioned to continue working and ignore the ongoing disaster.
Survivor Mohammed Ripu says that he was ordered back to work at the Bangladesh factory as the fire tore through the building, and, that when workers finally reached an exit, locked doors prevented escape:
“Managers told us, ‘Nothing happened. The fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work … But we quickly understood that there was a fire. As we again ran for the exit point we found it locked from outside, and it was too late.”
Many workers who perished in the Bangladesh fire were forced to jump from the building or perish in flames. Ripu was among those who jumped to safety, suffering minor injuries after leaping from a second-story window. Many in the Bangladesh factory were not as lucky.
Bangladesh earns nearly $20 billion annually from exported items made in the factories. Families of the dead have been offered $1,250 by way of recompense from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.