2012 Dhaka fire
|Date||24 November 2012|
The 2012 Dhaka fire broke out on 24 November 2012, in the Tazreen Fashion factory in the Ashulia district on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. At least 117 people were confirmed dead in the fire, and at least 200 were injured, making it the deadliest factory fire in the nation's history. The fire was initially presumed to be caused by an electrical short circuit, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suspected that the fire had been arson and an act of "sabotage".
Opened in 2009, the Tazreen Fashion factory, part of the Tuba group, employed 1,630 workers, who produced T-shirts, polo shirts and jackets. The factory produced clothes for various companies, including the US Marines, Dutch company C&A, American company Walmart and Hong Kong company Li & Fung. The Tuba group is a major exporter of garments from Bangladesh to the U.S., Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, whose clients include Walmart, Carrefour and IKEA.
According to Tazreen Fashions' web site, the factory was flagged in May 2011 with an "orange" grade by a Walmart ethical sourcing official for "violations and/or conditions which were deemed to be high risk". The notice said that any factory receiving three such assessments in two years would not receive Walmart orders for one year. The orange rating was the first the company had received, and was followed by a "yellow" medium risk rating the following August, which pertained to the factory where the fire occurred. On November 25, a Walmart spokesman said he was "so far unable to confirm that Tazreen is a supplier to Walmart nor if the document referenced in the article is in fact from Walmart"; the company subsequently terminated its relationship with Tazreen, stating that "The Tazreen factory [in Ashulia] was not authorized to produce merchandise for Walmart. A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies." Walmart critics claim that the company knew about unsafe conditions and blocked efforts to improve them. According to The New York Times, Walmart played a significant role in blocking reforms to have retailers pay more for apparel in order to help Bangladesh factories improve safety standards. Walmart director of ethical sourcing, Sridevi Kalavakolanu, asserted that the company would not agree to pay the higher cost, as such improvements in electrical and fire safety would be a "very extensive and costly modification" and that "it is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments."
The fire, presumably caused by an electrical short circuit, started on the ground floor of the nine-story factory, trapping the workers. Because of the large amount of fabrics and yarn in the factory, the fire quickly spread to other floors, complicating firefighting operations. The fire burned for more than seventeen hours before firefighters succeeded in extinguishing it.
Most victims were found on the second floor, where at least 69 bodies were recovered. Witnesses reported that many workers had been unable to escape through the narrow exits. Twelve of the victims died leaping from windows to escape the flames, some of them dying of their injuries after being taken to area hospitals. Other workers who had escaped to the roof of the building were successfully rescued. The fire department's operations manager stated that the factory lacked emergency exits that led out of the building. Of the building's three staircases, all three led through the ground floor, making them unusable in the fire.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated her shock at the death toll and called for thorough search-and-rescue operations. She also stated her suspicion that the fire had been arson and an act of "sabotage". Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir also alleged that arsonists were responsible, citing fires at other clothing factories, including one incident where employees were filmed on CCTV attempting to set fire to stockpiled cotton. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association offered support to the victims' families.
Tazreen Factory owner Delwar Hossain stated that the premises had not been unsafe, adding, "It is a huge loss for my staff and my factory. This is the first time we have ever had a fire at one of my seven factories". Investigators found that the fire certificate had expired in June, 2012. Three supervisors from the factory were arrested on 28 November on charges of criminal negligence. Police accused them of padlocking exits and preventing workers from leaving the building.
On 27 November, Walmart America ended its relationship with Tuba, which Walmart stated had been contracted by a supplier without its knowledge. The corporation also said that it would be working with suppliers to improve fire safety. Walmart also said it would donate US$1,600,000 to Institute for Sustainable Communities, which will use the donation to set up an Environmental, Health and Safety Academy in Bangladesh. Scott Nova, executive director of Worker Rights Consortium, said the donation is too little to make the industry safe, particularly because many factories do not even have basic safety features such as fire escapes. On 15 May 2013, companies whose clothing was manufactured at the Tazreen Design Ltd. factory met in Geneva to discuss compensation payments for the victims of the fire; Walmart and Sears declined to send representatives to the meeting.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association announced plans to expel 850 factories from its membership due to noncompliance with safety and labor standards. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have also urged the U.S. Trade Representative's office to complete its review of Bangladesh's compliance with eligibility requirements for the Generalized System of Preferences.
Related occurrence 
On 8 May 2013, a fire swept through another garment factory in Dhaka, killing at least seven people.
See also 
- 2010 Dhaka fire
- 2012 Pakistan garment factory fires
- 2013 Savar building collapse
- 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
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