A fire swept through a small garment factory in Bangladesh on Saturday, claiming the lives of seven employees—all women—and injuring 10, according to firefighters and witnesses. The blaze occurred barely two months after the the South Asian country’s worst industrial accident, which killed at least 112 apparel workers and injured 150 in a similar inferno. “Everything inside the factory has been gutted,” a Reuters photographer said.
Although the exact cause of the fire at Smart Fashions, which was housed on the upper floor of a two-storey building in the suburb of Mohammadpur, is yet to be determined, fire officials said it appeared to start in a tire repair and welding shop below.
Rough 700 workers, over 70 percent of them young women, worked at Smart Fashions.
Rough 700 workers, over 70 percent of them young women, worked at Smart Fashions, according to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, one of the oldest human-rights organizations dedicated to workers rights around the world. Two of the women killed were teenagers aged 15 and 16, it added.
Staff members, who said they gained access to the facility in the aftermath of the fire, claimed they recovered the labels of companies that contracted the factory, including Inditex-owned Bershka and Lefties, sister brands to Zara.
Also salvaged from the rubble were labels from Sol’s, a Paris-based clothing brand that says it abides to the Geneva Convention, Oeko-Tex standards, Fairtrade commitments, and a “charter of a commitment to ethics.”
In a joint statement issued after the incident, the International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, and the Clean Clothes Campaign issued a joint statement urging retailers and brands to sign a first-of-its-kind contract governing fire-safety inspections at thousands of Bangladeshi factories.
“After more than two decades of the apparel industry knowing about the risks to these workers, nothing substantial has changed,” wrote Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “Brands still keep their audit results secret. They still walk away when it suits them and trade unions are still marginalized, weakening workers’ ability to speak up when they are at risk.”
Bangladesh is second only to China in annual clothing exports, with roughly 4,500 garment factories and a notoriously spotty fire-safety record.