Hidden toll from unreported fires in Bangladesh clothing factories

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 December, 2013, 10:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 1:16am


Nearly 800 people have been injured in scores of largely unreported fires in garment and textile factories in Bangladesh in the past 12 months, according to new figures compiled by international labour campaigners.

The number of casualties will raise concerns at the slow pace of change in Bangladesh, where more than 1,130 people died when a building housing factories making garments for Western chains collapsed in April

But activists in Bangladesh say fires pose as serious a threat as poor building construction. Five months before the collapse, 114 people died in a fire in a factory making clothes sold by global retailers such as Walmart and Sears among others. Last month, 10 died in a textile mill blaze.

There are an estimated 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. About two thirds are active.

"The reality is that we have so many factories that every day there is something happening in some place but it doesn't make the news," said Mohammad Riaz Uddin, director of the Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society in Dhaka.

In the last year there has been more than one fire a week, according to figures compiled in Bangladesh by the American Centre for International Labor Solidarity. The statistics are based on reports in the local media and from union groups.

However, the true number of injured was unknown and may be even higher, the centre's Bangladesh director Alonzo Glenn Suson, said.

"Frankly we have no accurate estimation of the magnitude of the unsafe factories. Over the last 20 years of exponential growth of the garment factory, monitoring mechanisms were not able to catch up to speed,"said Srinivas Reddy, Bangladesh director of the International Labour Organisation.