October 24, 2016

15 killed in Tongi factory boiler blast

A factory fire 20km from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka has left at least 12 people dead. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

At least 15 people have been killed and 70 injured, many critically, in a huge fire triggered by a boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi packaging factory, officials said on Saturday.

“The death toll has risen to 15 and at least 70 people have been injured,” Parvez Mia, a doctor at the Tongi state-run hospital, said.

“Most of them had burn injuries. We sent the critically injured victims to the hospitals in Dhaka,” he said.

Around 100 people were working when flames tore through the building following an explosion in the boiler room at the four-storey factory in the industrial town of Tongi, just north of the capital Dhaka.

Police say they are concerned many workers may still be trapped inside the building.

“The fire is still not under control,” police inspector Sirajul Islam said.

Chemicals may have been stored on the ground floor of the factory, helping to explain how the blaze that began at 6am spread so fast, said Tahmidul Islam of Bangladesh’s industrial police unit.

“What we have heard is that there were chemicals stored on the ground floor. As a result, the fire took no time to spread,” Islam said, adding scores of fire officials were still battling to bring the blaze under control.

The factory produced and printed the plastic packaging for food items such as potato chips and small household goods including mosquito coils.

Fires and other accidents are common in the factories that make up the $27-billion garment industry in Bangladesh, the world’s second-biggest apparel exporter after China.

In November 2012, at least 111 workers were killed when a devastating fire engulfed a nine-storey garment factory in the Ashulia industrial area, outside the capital Dhaka.

The accident was followed by an even bigger tragedy six months later when 1,138 people died after another clothing factory complex collapsed, trapping over 3,000 workers.

Western brands subsequently upgraded safety standards and inspections for suppliers, dramatically reducing incidents of fire and other accidents at export-orientated factories.

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