Blast in Bangladesh gar­ment fac­tory kills 10

Mul­ti­fabs fac­tory was be­ing restarted af­ter Eid hol­i­days

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

A boiler ex­plo­sion at a Bangladeshi gar­ment plant near the city of Dhaka killed 10 peo­ple and in­jured dozens, emer­gency work­ers said yes­ter­day, the lat­est in­dus­trial tragedy to hit one of the world's big­gest gar­ment pro­duc­ers. The blast, late on Mon­day, oc­curred at a plant op­er­ated by lo­cal Bangladeshi firm Mul­ti­fabs while main­te­nance work was go­ing on, com­pany and fire bri­gade of­fi­cials said. The ex­plo­sion at the boiler, lo­cated in a tin-roofed shed, par­tially dam­aged a nearby three-storey fac­tory build­ing.

"I heard a big bang when I was hav­ing tea out­side," fac­tory driver Hafiz Mostafa said, as dozens thronged the fac­tory site and fire­fight­ers moved rub­ble in search of miss­ing per­sons. "I saw win­dows, doors, glasses, ma­chin­ery and a sec­tion of the wall of the build­ing go fly­ing." Fam­i­lies scoured the scene for miss­ing peo­ple. The plant had been shut for 10 days for Eid hol­i­days at the end of the Mus­lim holy month of Ra­madan and was be­ing read­ied to re­sume op­er­a­tions yes­ter­day, when the ac­ci­dent oc­curred.

"We're look­ing for my brother. We checked all the hos­pi­tals, but have not found him," said Nazim Ud­din, whose brother Er­shad Ul­lah worked as an elec­tri­cian at the plant for the last decade. Mul­ti­fabs has many clients in Europe, its web­site says. The com­pany started op­er­at­ing in 1992 and reached $70 mil­lion in ex­ports in 2016. Its top buy­ers in­clude fash­ion chain Lin­dex, which is part of Fin­land's Stock­mann, Ger­man su­per­mar­ket chain Aldi, and Rex­holm of Den­mark, Faruqui said.

The com­pany said the plant was func­tion­ing well and the six-year-old boiler, pro­cured from Ger­many, had just been ser­viced. "The boiler was run­ning well," Mahi­ud­din Faruqui, Mul­ti­fab's chair­man told Reuters. "Af­ter ser­vic­ing when work­ers were try­ing to restart it, it went off." Fire­fighter Faruk Hus­sain said a body had been re­trieved from the rub­ble in the morn­ing and that the search was still on for more vic­tims.

In­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der­way

Bangladesh's roughly $28 bil­lion gar­ment sec­tor, the big­gest in the world af­ter China, em­ploys 4 mil­lion peo­ple and gen­er­ates about 80 per­cent of the coun­try's ex­port earn­ings. It came un­der scru­tiny af­ter the col­lapse of the Rana Plaza fac­tory com­plex in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 peo­ple, and a fire at a gar­ment fac­tory in 2012 that killed 112 work­ers. The Rana Plaza dis­as­ter sparked de­mands for greater safety and put the onus to act on for­eign com­pa­nies sourc­ing cloth­ing from Bangladesh. A spokes­woman for Stock­mann said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the dis­as­ter, but was still seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion. She said Stock­mann is a mem­ber of the in­dus­try body Busi­ness So­cial Com­pli­ance Ini­tia­tive (BSCI), and that said Mul­ti­fabs had cleared a BSCI au­dit in May 2016 that was valid for two years.

Lin­dex said Mul­ti­fabs was one of its main sup­pli­ers and said it was mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion. The Mul­ti­fabs site hurt by the blast made 100,000 gar­ments a day, gen­er­ated around $6 mil­lion of rev­enue a month and em­ployed about 6,000 work­ers, said Mesba Faruqui, fac­tory and op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor in the fam­ily-run busi­ness.

Nu­mer­ous con­cerns

Two in­ter­na­tional coali­tions were formed af­ter Rana Plaza to help fund im­prove­ments to build­ing and fire safety at thou­sands of gar­ment fac­to­ries across Bangladesh. One of the coali­tions, sig­na­to­ries to the Ac­cord on Fire and Build­ing Safety in Bangladesh, in­spected the Mul­ti­fabs site in 2015 and noted among nu­mer­ous con­cerns that Mul­ti­fabs' boiler was not sep­a­rated by fire-rated con­struc­tion.

As of last week, how­ever, the Ac­cord's up­dated cor­rec­tive plan on the fa­cil­ity listed that is­sue as hav­ing been cor­rected. But the coali­tion it­self does not in­spect boil­ers, which are mon­i­tored by the Bangladesh gov­ern­ment. Bangladesh's chief boiler in­spec­tor Mo­ham­mad Ab­dul Man­nan said his depart­ment had in­spected the Mul­ti­fabs' boiler a year ago and that the next in­spec­tion had been due this month. Sulav Chowd­hury, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Bangladesh Knitwear Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion, of which Mul­ti­fabs is a mem­ber, said the in­dus­try had gone through a "huge shift" since the Rana Plaza dis­as­ter. "There has been struc­tural change, and we've worked hard for it," he said. "So I'd say this is a stray in­ci­dent." Still, crit­ics say more work needs to be done. "There is still an enor­mous amount to be done to im­prove safety in the Ban­galdeshi gar­ment in­dus­try" said the In­dus­triALL Global Union, a sig­na­tory to the Bangladesh Ac­cord and a mem­ber of the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee. It added that union sig­na­to­ries to the Ac­cord would de­mand that it be ex­panded swiftly to in­clude boiler safety. — Reuters

GAZIPUR: Bangladeshi res­cuers stand on the de­bris af­ter a Mon­day evening boiler ex­plo­sion at a gar­ment fac­tory owned by ex­port-ori­ented Mul­ti­fabs Ltd. at Kashim­pur area. — AP

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