Dozens killed in factory blaze


Rescuers carry a victim of a factory fire in Ashulia, north of the capital Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP)

Dozens of people have been killed after a devastating blaze raced through a Bangladesh garment factory that supplies major multinationals such as Gap and JCPenney.

Many of the dead included trapped workers who jumped from the building as it was engulfed by flames, witnesses said.

Fire official Golam Mostafa said the fire started in a 10-storey factory owned by local business giant Ha-Meem Group in the Ashulia industrial zone, just outside the capital Dhaka. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, and the government ordered an investigation.

Interior minister Shahara Khatun said after visiting the site that her ministry would investigate whether it was related to recent violent protests at textile factories over wages.

Monir Hossain, a local journalist at the scene, said the blaze broke out on the two upper floors during lunch break. A gate on a stairwell was locked, trapping people inside the factory, which mainly produces T-shirts for international brands, he quoted witnesses as saying.

Another journalist, Rafiqul Islam, said he saw at least 25 bodies being loaded on to ambulances.

Diganta television reported at least 27 people died and more than 100 were injured. ATN News also said rescuers recovered 27 bodies.

Officials predicted the death toll would rise.

A witness said he saw 50 to 60 people jumping off the 10th floor to escape the raging blaze.

About 13,000 people work at the factory on shifts each day, though most were outside buying lunch when the fire started, Mr Islam said.

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