NEW: Death toll rises to 8, national news agency reports
Officials say a police officer and the factory owner are among those killed
The factory general manager says a nurse told him that the victims suffocated
The incident comes amid growing concern about workers in this key industry
At least eight people died in a fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh’s capital late Wednesday, Bangladesh’s national news agency BSS reported.
Among those killed were a police officer and the factory owner, who were meeting at the facility when the blaze erupted, officials said.
Zabidur Rahman, the general manager of the factory, said the fire broke out on the third floor of the 11-story sweater factory in Dhaka’s Mirpur district.
He said a nurse at a hospital told him all seven victims suffocated.
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However, Mohammad Mahbub of the Bangladesh Fire Service said the factory was closed and there were no workers there when the fire broke out at 11 p.m. local time.
The news comes the same day Bangladeshi officials said the death toll in a building collapse two weeks ago had risen to more than 900.
The building, which housed five factories full of garment workers, caved in, burying hundreds of people in a heap of mangled concrete in Savar, a suburb of Dhaka.
Bangladesh has promised to implement a series of labor reforms as retailers weigh the cost of doing business in the country.
The measures, detailed in a statement issued by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, include the recruitment of 200 additional building inspectors within six months, a review of current garment producers and a promise to fix all problematic factories.
The agreement between the U.N. organization and Bangladeshi officials comes amid growing international concern about working conditions in the country.
Yet implementation remains a question. Bangladesh is politically volatile, and analysts say substantial work is needed to change a culture of lax regulation and cozy relations between factory owners and the government.
According to state media, Bangladesh’s Cabinet decided on April 29 to inspect the safety and security of all garment factories.
Under the inspection plan, a committee led by a state minister would visit the factories and submit a report to the government about the safety measures, Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters.
The panel includes the ministries of home, labor, disaster management, textiles, defense, industries and environment.