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Grief and neglect: 10 factory disasters in South Asia over last decade

  • Published at 07:12 am July 10th, 2021
Aftermath of the Old Dhaka factory fire on Friday, December 11, 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Many of South Asia's factories operate illegally and without proper fire safety measures

A massive fire raged through a juice-making factory in Bangladesh on Friday, killing at least 52 workers as the flames forced many of them to jump from upper floors.

Many others were feared trapped in the fire, which broke out on the ground floor of a six-storey building late on Thursday in Narayanganj, 20km from the capital, Dhaka.

Blazes and accidents are common in South Asia's factories, many of which operate illegally and without proper fire safety measures.

Here are 10 industrial incidents during the last decade that highlight the perils of manual labour in the region:

Rana Plaza disaster

A factory built on swampy ground near Bangladesh's capital collapsed in early 2013, killing more than 1,000 people, most of them women producing clothes for Western labels.

Workers had previously complained about cracks in the eight-storey building. It was the garment industry's deadliest recorded incident and put pressure on global brands to improve factory conditions and sign an accord on worker safety.

Bangladesh garment factory blaze

A fire that tore through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in late 2012 killed 112 mostly women workers.

Bangladeshi authorities blamed "saboteurs" for setting alight stockpiles of cotton. Survivors said that factory managers prevented workers from fleeing the multi-storey building when the fire alarm went off.

Bangladesh food factory fire

A blaze at a food- and cigarette-packing factory in Dhaka in 2016 highlighted risks for workers three years after safety measures were introduced following the Rana Plaza disaster.

Thirty-nine people died. A month earlier, more than 100 people fell ill after inhaling gas that leaked from a fertilizer factory in the southern port town of Chittagong.

Bangladesh boiler blast

A boiler explosion in a garment factory near Dhaka in 2017 deepened concerns about accidents in the world's second-largest garment producer, prompting renewed calls for more effective implementation of regulations put in place after Rana Plaza.

Fire at Indian chemical plant

Eighteen people were killed in a fire last month at a chemical plant that made products including hand sanitizers in the western Indian city of Pune.

Delhi factory fire

A fire ripped through a New Delhi factory in December 2019, killing at least 43 workers. The blaze at a building in India's capital housing workers making school bags and toys was blamed by campaigners on a lack of workplace safety.

India fireworks factory blaze

A fire that started in an unlicensed Indian factory producing fireworks in 2012 killed about 40 people - the latest in a string of accidents in a town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu known as India's fireworks capital.

Pakistan factory fire

On September 11, 2012, nearly 300 people were killed in a fire at a garment factory in Pakistan's commercial capital of Karachi. According to investigations, emergency exits were blocked. On the same day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore city killed 25 people.

Pakistan factory collapse

Forty-four people died when a Pakistani plastic bag factory collapsed in Lahore in November 2015.

Survivors said the owner added a new floor to the building and ignored advice to stop construction after cracks appeared in the building following a 7.5-magnitude earthquake.

Sri Lanka rubber factory accident

A Sri Lankan worker at a rubber factory fell into a tank of ammonia in 2018 and died along with four others who tried to save him. Workers complained that there were no safety measures or warning systems in the plant.

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