Dhaka: A fire engulfed a food and beverage factory outside Bangladesh’s capital, killing at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door, fire officials said. The blaze began Thursday night at the five-storey Hashem Foods Ltd factory, in Rupganj, just outside Dhaka, sending huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Police initially gave a toll of three dead, but then discovered piles of bodies after the fire was extinguished. So far 52 bodies have been recovered, but the top two floors of the factory have yet to be searched, said Debasish Bardhan, deputy director of the fire service and civil defence.
He said the main exit of the factory was locked from the inside and many of those who died were trapped. Many workers jumped from the upper floors of the factory, and at least 26 suffered injuries, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported.
Bangladesh has a tragic history of industrial disasters. Continuing corruption and lax enforcement have resulted in many deaths over the years. The factory that caught fire was a subsidiary of Sajeeb Group, a Bangladeshi company that produces juice under Pakistan’s Lahore-based Shezan International Ltd, said Kazi Abdur Rahman, the group’s senior general manager for export. According to the group’s website, the company exports its products to Australia, the US, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Nepal and nations in the Middle East and Africa. Rahman said the company is fully compliant with international standards, but he was not certain whether the exit of the factory was locked. According to Bangladesh laws, a factory cannot lock its exit when workers are inside during production hours.