Outrage, Protests In Bangladesh After Factory Fire That Killed Scores

Horrific is a word that quickly comes to mind about the news from Bangladesh concerning a fire Saturday in a garment factory where clothes were made for retailers around the world, including some in the U.S.

Here’s how The Associated Press starts its latest report:

“The fire alarm: Waved off by managers. An exit door: Locked. The fire extinguishers: Not working and apparently “meant just to impress” inspectors and customers. That is the picture survivors paint of the garment-factory fire Saturday that killed 112 people who were trapped inside or jumped to their deaths in desperation.”

Today, The Wall Street Journal writes, “thousands of Bangladeshi protesters took to the streets. … Workers demanding justice were blocking the streets of a Dhaka suburb in a protest that turned violent at times. The workers threw stones at factories, smashed vehicles and blocked a major highway in the area, according to garment workers’ groups, and some 200 factories were closed for the day after the protest erupted in Ashulia, the industrial zone where the deadly fire occurred.”

There’s also been another fire today at another factory. It’s said to be almost under control.

As The New York Times adds, “activists say that global clothing brands like Tommy Hilfiger and the Gap and those sold by Wal-Mart need to take responsibility for the working conditions in Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes.”

According to the AP:

“The factory in Saturday’s blaze is owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group that has produced clothing for Wal-Mart, at least in the past. Neither Tazreen nor Tuba Group officials could be reached for comment.

“The Tuba Group is a major Bangladeshi garment exporter whose clients include Wal-Mart, Carrefour and IKEA, according to its website. Its factories export garments to the U.S., Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, among other countries. …

“Tazreen was given a ‘high risk’ safety rating after a May 16, 2011, audit conducted by an ‘ethical sourcing’ assessor for Wal-Mart, according to a document posted on the Tuba Group’s website. It did not specify what led to the rating.

“Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said online documents indicating an orange or ‘high risk’ assessment after the May 2011 inspection and a yellow or ‘medium risk’ report after an inspection in August 2011 appeared to pertain to the factory. The August 2011 letter said Wal-Mart would conduct another inspection within one year.

“Gardner said it was not clear if that inspection had been conducted or whether the factory was still making products for Wal-Mart.”

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