Foreign labels found in Bangladesh blaze factory

SHOTLIST:

DHAKA, JAN 27, 2013, SOURCE: AFP

- A woman walks in the burned factory

- VAR burnt clothing from "Scott & Fox" lies amongst the debris

-Clothing labels from "Bershka" lie amongst the debris

- VAR burned jeans and wreckage

- Bangladeshi fire officials walk inside the factory

- Clothing labels from "Gemo" lie amongst the debris

- VAR of burnt clothing with the tag "Sol's" lying among the debris

-VAR of burnt staff attendance cards

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AFP TEXT STORY:

Bangladesh-fire-textile-industry

Inditex labels found in Bangladesh factory fire

DHAKA, Jan 27, 2013 (AFP) - The "unlicensed" garment factory in the Bangladeshi capital where fire killed seven female workers on Saturday was making clothing for Spanish giant Inditex and several French brands.

An AFP correspondent sifted through the charred remains of the Smart Export factory on Sunday and found labels such as Bershka, a retailer owned by Inditex, and Sol's, Scott and Fox and G Blog, part of Gemo.

The latest finding puts further spotlight on the sourcing by global retailers just two months after Bangladesh's deadliest garment factory fire killed 111 workers while making clothing for Walmart and a variety of Western firms.

The November blaze at Tazreen Fashion, which didn't have any fire license, also highlighted the Bangladeshi apparel industry's appalling safety and labour issues and since then at least 20 garment factories have been gutted.

Fire broke out at the Smart factory employing around 300 workers Saturday afternoon, leaving at least seven female workers dead and 15 other injured including five of them critically.

Worker Laizu Begum said the factory where they were paid as little as $37 a month had one of its doors closed when the fire broke out during lunch break, forcing the workers to rush to the other gate, resulting in a stampede.

"Burnt foam and clothing created huge smoke. I survived as I was sitting close to a gate," she told AFP.

Fire department officials said the factory based on the second floor of an old two-storied building "did not have any fire license".

"It's just a factory in name. The owners set up some sewing machines on a floor without taking care of any safety issues. It did not have any fire exit or fire equipment," he told AFP.

It was not clear whether Smart had won the orders directly from the European companies or was subcontracting for large local factories.

Mohammad Akash, an official, told AFP that they mainly do subcontracting from Bangladeshi factories including Mactex based at Mirpur in the northern outskirt of Dhaka. Mactex could not be contacted for comment.

Of the country's 4,500 garment factories, most are small plants housed in residential quarters, depending on sub-contracting from bigger plants for survival. Many operate only in peak seasons, especially during Christmas time.

The cause of the latest blaze could not be known but fire is a common problem in the factories in Bangladesh, the world's second largest apparel maker, with most occurring due to shoddy buildings and substandard electric wiring.

Around 700 people have been killed in garment factory fires in the country since 2006.

The garment industry is the mainstay of the impoverished country's economy, accounting for up to 80 percent of Bangladesh's $24.3 billion annual export last year.

Western retailers have openly criticised the Bangladeshi factories for not ensuring worker safety, but major brands continue to place orders, with some reportedly raising purchases since the Tazreen fire due to cheap manufacturing costs.

END