Fire guts closed garment factory in Bangladesh

AP News
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Posted: Nov 28, 2013 9:50 PM

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A fire has destroyed a nine-story garment factory near Bangladesh's capital, but officials say no casualties have been reported.

Fire officials said unidentified people set fire to the factory in Gazipur district after it had closed Thursday night.

On Friday, local fire official Abu Jafar told The Associated Press that no casualties were reported because the fire happened outside of work hours.

The factory belongs to Standard Group of Companies Ltd., a Bangladeshi company.

The fire comes after a string of deadly accidents in Bangladesh's garment sector, which earns the South Asian nation more than $20 billion dollar a year from exports, mainly to the United States and Europe.

The industry was put under global scrutiny for its often harsh and unsafe working conditions after the collapse of a building housing garment factories killed more than 1,100 people in April and a fire last November killed 112 workers. Global brands, factory owners and the government have pledged to work together to improve conditions.

The U.S. has stripped Bangladesh of a preferential trade facility, saying the country needs to do more to get the privilege back.

On Friday, Jafar said 200 firefighters worked to bring the fire under control but some of them could not reach the scene immediately because angry factory workers blocked them.

He said the workers had a dispute with the company management but could not provide details.

Earlier this month, Bangladeshi garment workers protested against a 77 percent increase in the minimum wage for unskilled workers to 5,300 takas ($66) a month, still the lowest in the world.

The workers were demanding a wage of 8,114 takas ($100).