NEW DELHI– A fire at a suspected illegal garment factory near the Indian capital killed 13 people and injured several others early Friday morning, officials said.
The workers were sleeping in the cramped leather factory, which was in a residential building on the edge of New Delhi, when the blaze broke out, likely caused by a short circuit.
“The fire broke out at a factory in a residential area of Sahibabad around 4:30 am in the morning. 13 people, who were sleeping there have died and another two or three people are getting treated at the hospital,” Bhagwat Singh, local police spokesman told AFP.
Local fire officer Abbas Hussain told AFP that two people were rescued after they woke up soon after the fire started.
“The two of them woke up by chance and say they screamed for others to wake up while running towards the terrace but others didn’t wake up, perhaps it was already late,” Hussain said.
He said that the factory was most likely illegal.
“From what we see, there was nothing proper and the factory must surely not have been a legal one but we can say for sure only after a proper investigation,” he said.
India has a poor record on workplace safety and deadly accidents are commonplace.
Eight workers were killed last month in a huge explosion at a fireworks factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu while a massive blaze in a firecracker factory killed 15 people in May 2014 in Madhya Pradesh.
A fire at a factory where leather bags were being stitched killed six workers in November 2013 in New Delhi. Some of the victims were trapped inside the building and burnt beyond recognition.
South Asia’s lucrative garment industry has a particularly alarming safety record, with watchdogs saying safety rules are routinely flouted.
A huge fire triggered by a boiler explosion at a packaging factory just north of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka left 25 people dead in September.
In November 2012, at least 111 workers were killed when a devastating fire engulfed a nine-storey garment factory outside Dhaka.
The accident was followed by an even bigger disaster six months later when 1,138 people died after another clothing factory complex collapsed, trapping more than 3,000 workers.
The Rana Plaza tragedy triggered international outrage and put pressure on European and US clothing brands to improve pay and conditions at the factories that supply them.