At least 52 people were killed when a massive fire ripped through a juice factory in Bangladesh, officials said Friday.
The fire started Thursday afternoon on the ground floor of a six-story Hashem Foods Ltd. factory in Rupganj, east of the capital Dhaka, Debashis Bardhan, deputy director of the fire service and civil defense said.
The presence of chemicals and flammable substances like polythene and clarified butter contributed to the blaze in the factory, and made it more difficult to bring under control, the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency reported.
Three people died when they jumped off the roof on Thursday after suffering burns from the blaze, BSS reported, citing Abdul Al Arifin, the Narayanganj district deputy director of the fire service and civil defense. Almost none of the bodies recovered on Friday could be recognized, BSS reported, citing fire service and civil defense director Lieutenant Colonel Zillur Rahman.
Al Arifin said each of the building’s floors was about 35,000 square feet (3,250 square meters) but were only accessible by two stairways, meaning that many workers could not get out as the fire spread to the stairs, while one of the doors leading from the stairs to the roof was locked, Reuters reported.
Twenty-five people were rescued from the building, officials said. At least 50 people, mostly factory workers and employees, were injured in the fire.
The fire was brought under control by Friday afternoon, BSS reported, and relatives of missing workers were staging demonstrations outside and around the factory premises.
The Narayanganj district administration has formed a five-member probe committee to examine the incident, Reuters reported, citing Al Arifin.
In 2013, more than 1,000 people were killed when an entire garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh’s capital, bringing safety standards for the country’s factory workers – a high proportion of whom work in the garment industry – into the spotlight.
Nearly 200 brands and more than 1,600 factories signed an agreement promoting safe working environments for workers following the incident.
But still, blazes and accidents can be common in South Asia’s factories, many of which operate illegally and without adequate fire and building safety standards.
Salman Saeed reported from Dhaka and Sophie Jeong reported from Hong Kong. Amy Woodyatt wrote from London.