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GAZIPUR – On Friday 10 January, a fire broke out at a garment factory in Bangladesh which supplies to leading global brands including H&M, C&A, Next, Zara and Esprit. Islam Garments, an RMG factory in Konabari, Gazipur, is owned by the Dhaka North Mayor. The fire had broken out during the factory’s lunch break, which meant there were no workers inside the building, and it was brought under control after a five-hour operation involving eight fire-fighting units.

The Bangladeshi Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said the fire started on the fifth floor of the 10-storey building, while initial reports suggest that a short circuit triggered the fire. Some minor casualties have since been reported, however, most of these were said to be those who were helping to put the fire out.

Both Bangladesh and India have witnessed a number of fires and explosions in their respective garment and textiles industries in the past 12 months.

This latest one, while casualty-free, will give rise to serious concerns given that it – very fortunately – occurred at a time when workers were on their lunchbreak and, in theory, could have had a much more catastrophic outcome.

The other concern is that the Bangladesh Accord is being ushered out of the country to be replaced by Bangladesh’s own internal safety monitoring system. Rights groups claim this lacks the teeth of the Accord as it does not involve union participation.

More on this story in our next printed magazine.

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