FACTBOX-Grief and neglect: 10 factory disasters in South Asia

by Annie Banerji | @anniebanerji | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 9 July 2021 11:53 GMT

Relatives of victims killed in Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, mourn at the site during the sixth anniversary of the collapse in Savar, on the outskirt of Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

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The blaze at a building in India's capital housing workers making school bags and toys was blamed by campaigners on a lack of workplace safety

By Annie Banerji

NEW DELHI, July 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A massive fire raged through a juice-making factory in Bangladesh on Friday, killing at least 52 workers as the flames forced many of them to jump from upper floors.

Many others were feared trapped in the fire, which broke out on the ground floor of a six-storey building late on Thursday in Narayanganj, 20 km (12 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

Blazes and accidents are common in South Asia's factories, many of which operate illegally and without proper fire safety measures.

Here are 10 industrial incidents during the last decade that highlight the perils of manual labour in the region:

- Fire at Indian chemical plant

Eighteen people were killed in a fire last month at a chemical plant that made products including hand sanitizers in the western Indian city of Pune.

- Delhi factory fire

A fire ripped through a New Delhi factory in December 2019, killing at least 43 workers. The blaze at a building in India's capital housing workers making school bags and toys was blamed by campaigners on a lack of workplace safety. - Rana Plaza disaster

A factory built on swampy ground near Bangladesh's capital collapsed in early 2013, killing more than 1,000 people, most of them women producing clothes for Western labels.

Workers had previously complained about cracks in the eight-storey building.

It was the garment industry's deadliest recorded incident and put pressure on global brands to improve factory conditions and sign an accord on worker safety. - Pakistan factory fire

On Sept. 11, 2012, nearly 300 people were killed in a fire at a garment factory in Pakistan's commercial capital of Karachi. According to investigations, emergency exits were blocked.

On the same day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore city killed 25 people. - Bangladesh garment factory blaze

A fire that tore through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in late 2012 killed 112 mostly women workers.

Bangladeshi authorities blamed "saboteurs" for setting alight stockpiles of cotton. Survivors said that factory managers prevented workers from fleeing the multi-storey building when the fire alarm went off. - Pakistan factory collapse

Forty-four people died when a Pakistani plastic bag factory collapsed in Lahore in November 2015.

Survivors said the owner added a new floor to the building and ignored advice to stop construction after cracks appeared in the building following a 7.5-magnitude earthquake. - India fireworks factory blaze

A fire that started in an unlicensed Indian factory producing fireworks in 2012 killed about 40 people - the latest in a string of accidents in a town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu known as India's fireworks capital. - Bangladesh food factory fire

A blaze at a food- and cigarette-packing factory in Dhaka in 2016 highlighted risks for workers three years after safety measures were introduced following the Rana Plaza disaster.

Thirty-nine people died. A month earlier, more than 100 people fell ill after inhaling gas that leaked from a fertilizer factory in the southern port town of Chittagong. - Sri Lanka rubber factory accident

A Sri Lankan worker at a rubber factory fell into a tank of ammonia in 2018 and died along with four others who tried to save him. Workers complained that there were no safety measures or warning systems in the plant.

- Bangladesh boiler blast

A boiler explosion in a garment factory near Dhaka in 2017 deepened concerns about accidents in the world's second-largest garment producer, prompting renewed calls for more effective implementation of regulations put in place after Rana Plaza. Sources: Reuters, International Labour Organization, Clean Clothes Campaign, Human Rights Watch, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji; Editing by Helen Popper; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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