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Bangladesh prime minister alleges arson in deadly factory fire

From Farid Ahmed, CNN
November 27, 2012 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Bangladesh's prime minister says arsonists were behind the deadly factory fire
  • Wal-Mart cuts ties with a supplier that subcontracted work to the factory
  • More than 100 people were killed in the blaze in Bangladesh
  • A day of mourning is scheduled for Tuesday

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- The clothing factory fire that killed more than 100 workers in Bangladesh over the weekend was no accident, the country's prime minister said.

The fire Saturday at the factory near Dhaka, and a second fire at another factory Monday were "planned arson," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Monday.

Two people were arrested Monday trying to set fire to an apparel factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, but local police said they had not yet found any links between the arrests and the other factory fires.

Hasina's remarks came the night before Tuesday's day of mourning for those killed at the factory and for the victims from a recent overpass collapse in southeastern Bangladesh.

All apparel factories were to be closed Tuesday, and special prayers will be offered at mosques, churches and temples, the government said.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. put some distance between it and the clothing factory, saying the factory was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for the company.

"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," Wal-Mart said Monday.

The clothing factory, housed in a multistory building near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, caught fire Saturday night.

Firefighters try to control a fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 24. At least 112 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the fire. Firefighters try to control a fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 24. At least 112 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the fire.
Bangladesh factory fire
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Bangladesh factory fire Bangladesh factory fire
A look at Bangladesh factory conditions
Improving workers' rights in Bangladesh

More than 100 people were killed and at least 200 were injured as they rushed to escape the factory in Ashulia, police said.

"How the factory caught fire, I don't know. But when we heard 'fire,' we all rushed out and we were trying to get out of the factory," said Parul Begum, a survivor.

"One factory worker broke a window and one of the workers pulled me through. After the fire, we tried to run out the door, but it was locked. When the floor (became) dark with smoke, the boys came to rescue me," she said.

Fire rips through clothing factory near Dhaka

Thousands of workers from dozens of clothing factories in Ashulia took to the streets Monday to protest the deaths of their colleagues. The protesters blocked traffic and demonstrated for several hours, demanding compensation and a full investigation into what happened.

The Bangladeshi government has ordered such an investigation, asking two committees to file reports within a week.

On Tuesday, Hasina urged factory owners to be more careful about the safety of their workers, but also to remain vigilant to the possibility of suspicious activities in their mills.

Overpass collapse kills 11 in Bangladesh

Police and witnesses said the latest fire, at a 10-story clothing factory in the suburb of Uttara, began Monday morning, and it took firefighters about four hours to bring it under control.

"Firefighters have brought the flames under control, and no one died in the incident," Brigadier Gen. Abu Nayeem Mohammad Shahidullah, director general of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, told reporters.

Local police said at least 10 people were injured in Uttara as they jumped from windows to escape.

They said the fire began on the second floor, where a large quantity of fabric and yarn were stored, and it spread immediately to the fourth floor.

Bangladesh's ready-made garments make up 80% of the country's $24 billion in annual exports.

The country has about 4,500 garment factories that make clothes for stores including Tesco, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's and Carrefour. The sector earned $19 billion this year as of June.

The state-run news agency, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), recently reported that some 6,000 people die every year in fires in the country.

CNN's Atika Shubert contributed to this report.

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