Bangladesh says faulty boiler caused deadly fac­tory blast

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

A faulty boiler caused an ex­plo­sion at a Bangladesh fac­tory that killed 13 peo­ple this week, au­thor­i­ties said Wed­nes­day, as sur­vivors ac­cused the own­ers of ig­nor­ing their con­cerns. A gov­ern­ment in­spec­tor said a li­cense to use the 15-year-old boiler which ex­ploded on Mon­day night had ex­pired last month.

His com­ments came as sur­vivors of the blast told lo­cal me­dia they had alerted the fac­tory’s own­ers of prob­lems with the boiler, but their warn­ings went un­heeded. “The li­cense of the boiler ex­pired on June 24. It’s a five-ton boiler and aged more than 15 years,” deputy chief in­spec­tor of the gov­ern­ment’s boiler de­part­ment Zi­aul Hoque told AFP. “In our pri­mary in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we have found that the ex­plo­sion oc­curred due to ex­ces­sive pres­sure in the boiler.”

Most of the plant’s 5,000 work­ers were off for the Eid hol­i­days when the boiler ex­ploded dur­ing main­te­nance work, caus­ing a sec­tion of the six-storey build­ing to col­lapse. It was the lat­est dis­as­ter to high­light the poor safety record of the coun­try’s $30-bil­lion gar­ment in­dus­try, the sec­ond largest in the world. Lo­cal po­lice chief Aminul Is­lam said at least 10 peo­ple had been charged, in­clud­ing three boiler op­er­a­tors who died in the ex­plo­sion.

He said po­lice would also prose­cute the own­ers of the fac­tory if they were proven to be at fault. “The own­ers can­not avoid their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” Is­lam said. “They (the op­er­a­tors) ran the boiler de­spite know­ing that it was in bad con­di­tion. If they did not start the boiler, it would not have ex­ploded,” he said. The plant in the Gazipur in­dus­trial dis­trict on the out­skirts of Dhaka is owned by man­u­fac­turer Mul­ti­fabs, which makes cloth­ing for brands in­clud­ing Lit­tle­woods and Aldi ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

One in­jured worker re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at a nearby hos­pi­tal said the boiler was old and “beep­ing dan­ger sig­nals con­tin­u­ously”, crit­i­ciz­ing fac­tory au­thor­i­ties for not re­plac­ing it. “Within 10 min­utes af­ter we re­turned to work, the boiler ex­ploded,” Harunur Rashid told lo­cal daily Prothom Alo. “It’s ab­so­lutely the au­thor­i­ties’ neg­li­gence.” Mul­ti­fabs owner Mahi­ud­din Faruqui said the com­pany had ap­plied to re­new the boiler li­cense and promised com­pen­sa­tion for the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.

“We ap­plied for re­newal of the boiler li­cense on June 19. But all gov­ern­ment of­fices went closed for Eid hol­i­days that week,” he told AFP. The lat­est dis­as­ter came four years af­ter the col­lapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza fac­tory com­plex in April 2013 in which more than 1,100 peo­ple were killed. In the wake of the dis­as­ter, au­thor­i­ties pledged to im­prove work­ing con­di­tions at fac­to­ries, but ac­ci­dents are still com­mon­place. Only a few hun­dred of the coun­try’s 4,500 tex­tile fac­to­ries have been cer­ti­fied as safe and last year a fire at a fac­tory just miles from Rana Plaza claimed 34 lives. —AFP

GAZIPUR: Bangladeshi fire­fight­ers take part in a search and res­cue op­er­a­tion at a de­stroyed gar­ment fac­tory. —AFP

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