[photo credit: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]
The tragic fire at the Hashem Foods Ltd factory in Rupganj in Narayanganj district, on the outskirts of Dhaka, started on the afternoon of Thursday July 8 and was still burning 24 hours later. So far 52 workers are confirmed dead, dozens are still missing, and hundreds are seriously injured.
Many of the workers who died were trapped on the third floor, above and next to the storage of highly flammable chemicals and plastics on the second and third floors.
While initial reports claimed workers were taking shelter when they died, new information from workers who jumped from the second and third floors indicates the exits were blocked and there was no escape. Workers who escaped the fire last night also reported that there was another fire at the factory just one week ago.Relatives of workers protesting outside the factory on Thursday night demanded to know why the factory gate remained locked after the fire started, leading to more deaths and injuries.
The locked gate was the only way to exit the factory.
Some 7,000 workers have been working in unsafe conditions at Hashem Foods Ltd, which is one of several food, beverage, and agro-processing companies owned by Sajeeb Group.
The factory not only produces the local brands of Hashem Foods. It also manufactures several regional and international brands including Shezan juices for Pakistan-based Shezan International and beverages and snack foods for US-based Mondelez.
IUF-affiliated unions in Bangladesh condemned the hazardous and unsafe conditions that led to the tragic deaths of workers. They are demanding an investigation into the violation of workers’ rights, including health and safety rights, at the Hashem Foods Ltd factory as well as all factories operated Sajeeb Group.