Fire fighters were able to bring the Tampaco factory fire under control Sunday evening but could not start rescue operation inside the building due to excessive heat and dense smoke.
Four more bodies were recovered from the spot in the afternoon while a worker succumbed to his burn injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, pushing the death toll to 29.
Of the 24 who died on Saturday, 19 bodies were recovered from the spot while five succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment at hospitals.
Ten injured workers – five in critical state – have been undergoing treatment at the DMCH while nine more workers remained missing as of last night.
Around 70% of the three-storey factory collapsed due to the fire which was intensified by the chemical substances kept in the building, fire officials say.
Reason behind the fire still remains unclear. Primarily, it was reported that the fire erupted because of a boiler explosion. But the government officials claimed that the boiler had not exploded, and that it could be originated from a gas leak.
Gazipur Deputy Commissioner SM Alam told the Dhaka Tribune that the fire fighters found four bodies from the site around 5:30pm after the Gazipur City Corporation authorities had started removing debris with bulldozers.
Their identities could not be ascertained immediately.
Fire fighters were spraying water inside the factory last evening but could not enter the building as it became risky.
Director of Fire Service and Civil Defence (training, planning and development) Lt Col Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune that they had doused the flames after 36 hours of frantic efforts. “But we need more time to put out the fire completely.
“The building has titled and become too risky to conduct rescue operations,” he said, adding that the total number of deaths can be confirmed after the debris are removed.
The injured worker who died at the DMCH is Ripon Das, 30. He was admitted to the hospital with 90% burns. He died around 5:30am, said Partha Shankar Pal, resident surgeon at the DMCH burns unit.
Ripon's family was given Tk20,000 as compensation from the Gazipur deputy commissioner office.
Ten victims are still undergoing treatment at the DMCH.
Of them, five critically injured workers are getting treatment at the Casualty Department. Resident Surgeon Jasmine Nahar said that three of them – Shipon, Rokon and Jahangir – had head injuries.
Four others are admitted in Ward 101. One of them – Pran Krishna Sarker – has multiple fractures. Another is undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit (ICU).
Sumon Mollik, brother-in-law of Pran Krishna, said that they had received Tk10,000 from the Deputy Commissioner's office as compensation.
According to the government's announcement, the families of the dead workers would get Tk2 lakh each and the injured a maximum Tk1 lakh each as grants from the Labour Welfare Fund.
The injured workers would get Tk10,000 each from the district administration while the families of the deceased would be given Tk20,000 each for funeral.
Soumen Barua, AIG of the Department of Labour, said that they were preparing a list of injured workers admitted to the hospital to determine the extent of injury and the amount of compensation.
The families of the injured workers had to buy some medicines from outside the hospital Saturday as those were not available.
Learning about this, Director General of Health Services Dr Md Abul Kalam Azad instructed the DMCH authorities to arrange the medicines for free since those were on the list of medicines given by the government.
After Dr Azad visited the hospital Sunday, DMCH Director Brig Gen Mizanur Rahman informed him that all the patients were given free medicines.
The National Human Rights Commission chairman Sunday said that they would form a high-powered committee to probe the incident.
On Saturday, two probe bodies – one under the district administration and another by the fire service – were formed to look into the fire incident.
NHRC chief Reazul Hoque said that they would assess the technical aspects of the fire incident – the issues of renewal of licence, fire clearance and factory visits by officials concerned.
“We will prepare a list of all the relevant issues and identify who to blame. We will also advice the government to take necessary action,” he told reporters after visiting the site.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal who visited the spot Saturday told reporters that the police would check whether the industry had permission to use chemicals, or else, legal action would be taken against its owner.
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said that stern action would be taken against those responsible for the fire that claimed 29 lives after investigation.
He said that the government would take steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents at factories to ensure workplace safety for the workers. All the factories that use boilers in Tongi area would be inspected.
NHRC Chairman Reazul said that the owner cannot evade responsibility for the deaths. “He has failed to ensure safety for the workers though he has been doing business for the 45 years and extended it.”
He said that the commission would assist if anyone files a murder case against the owner for negligence.
Reazul also questioned whether the government wings had carried out their due jobs. This fire incident could be averted had the authorities concerned inspected the factory regularly and force the factory owner to ensure compliance.
“The government has appointed over 200 factory inspectors who are supposed to visit the factories regularly and identify the risky units.
“The whole world is watching us after Tazreen fire [in 2012] and Rana Plaza collapse [in 2013]. Our exports were hampered... but the government has been able to regain its image through different efforts.”
The country's image would be tarnished if such incidents could not be prevented. “We have to see whether it was part of a sabotage against the country,” he added.
While visiting the factory Sunday afternoon, veteran politician and jurist Dr Kamal Hossain demanded punishment for those responsible for the fire. “There are domestic and international laws to address these issues. The culprits must be punished.
“The government should compel everyone to follow the rules. The whole world observed what happened to Rana Plaza. They will follow this incident too. Recurrence of such tragedies will not bring any good to the country,” he said.