DHAKA: At least 13 people were killed and more than a dozen injured on Saturday when a fire broke out in a plastic factory in Bangladesh’s capital, emergency service officials said.
Police and fire officers believe the blaze started when gas cylinders exploded in the factory’s boiler room, then raced through the four-storey Nasim Plastic factory in minutes.
“We’ve recovered 13 bodies,” local police chief Mohammad Jashimuddin told Agence France-Presse, adding the fire was brought under control in around two hours and that the factory floors had been thoroughly searched.
“Three people were critically burnt and they were shifted to a hospital,” he added.
A fire official said those who died were plastic factory workers who were burnt or suffocated after they were trapped on the upper floors.
“It was a big fire, which was originated in the boiler room after loud explosions. Walls of the buildings collapsed due to the impact of the explosions,” he told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to speak to the press.
More than a dozen people suffered minor burn injuries, he added.
Factory worker Mohammad Khokon said 150-200 people usually work in the building, but the number on site was less than that because it was a weekend.
Dozens of friends and relatives of the missing workers crowded the factory site in Dhaka’s northern Mirpur suburb as fire fighters sifted through the charred remains of the building.
“I called my friend Belal after I saw the fire. His phone rang but he did not respond,” Mohammad Masud told Agence France-Presse.
The fire also spread to a nearby four-storey garment factory, but the plant was closed for the day.
Fires are common in impoverished Bangladesh’s factories, which often have poor safety standards and lack fire-fighting tools.
In November 2012, at least 111 garment workers were killed when a blaze devastated a nine-storey garment factory outside Dhaka.
Many Western retailers, which buy billions of dollars of clothing from Bangladesh every year, have responded by launching a campaign to improve safety standards in the country’s thousands of garment factories.