On Saturday, September 10, an aggressive and uncontrollable fire broke out at a cigarette and food packaging factory in Bangladesh. The blaze killed 31 people and injured more than a dozen.
The Guardian reports that the factory involved in the blaze produced the plastic packaging used to store and ship food items and small household materials.
According to local officials, the disaster is Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial accident since the Rana Plaza building collapsed three years ago, killing 1,100 people in the process.
What Caused the Factory Fire?
While officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, the current theory of agents in the area is that a boiler exploded, which set flammable chemicals ablaze and spread quickly around the factory. Many believe that the chemicals were stored on the ground floor of the facility, which contributed to the blaze spreading so fast.
While 23 workers were killed immediately, six additional bodies were found in the rubble on Sunday the 11th, and two more were recovered during the late-night hours.
People are Still Being Treated for Injuries – Some in Critical Condition
When the fire broke out in the Bangladesh factory, roughly 100 people were working. After the boiler exploded, the flames quickly engulfed the four-story building, and there are concerns that workers are still trapped inside the rubble.
As of Monday the 12th, at least thirteen people are still being treated at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital for burn-related injuries. Six of those individuals are in critical condition. Meanwhile, hospital and health officials are crowded by family members still searching for their lost relatives and loved ones.
The History and Future of Factory Safety in Bangladesh
This disaster is not the first industrial calamity in Bangladesh history. Over the years, hundreds of people have died in other factory fires and the aforementioned Rana Plaza building collapse.
The garment industry is worth $27 billion in Bangladesh, and the country is the world’s second-largest exporter of fabrics and apparel, behind only China.
Each time an industrial disaster like this strikes Bangladesh, it has far-reaching consequences. Bangladesh factories supply many major U.S. chain stores, such as Wal-Mart, H&M, and JC Penny, and each is populated by hundreds of workers.
In recent years, the Bangladesh government has partnered with the United Nations to work together to improve the safety of South Asian factories, although this latest disaster and a fire that broke out earlier this year both mar the face of those efforts.
As it stands today, officials around the world are concerned about the working conditions in Bangladeshi factories, and it’s a well-known fact that safety standards and laws are seldom observed in these overcrowded facilities.
In response to this and other disasters, many western brands have insisted on more stringent safety standards and more frequent inspections for suppliers in Asian countries like Bangladesh. The hope is that these measures, when undertaken properly, will reduce deadly industrial accidents in these busy processing and production plants.