52 dead in Bangladesh textile mill fire

Rescuers recovered 46 more bodies from the charred debris of a textile mill in southeastern Bangladesh Friday, raising the death toll from the devastating fire to 52, officials said. The fire that broke out late Thursday at the Bangladeshi-owned KTS Textile Mill near the port city of Chittagong also injured more than 150 workers, 82 of whom were hospitalized, doctors at Chittagong Medical College Hospital said.

More than 1,000 workers, many of them women, were inside when the fire broke out, said Abu Tayeb, an official of a textile manufacturers' and exporters' association. Most managed to leave the building on their own, he said. Rescuers, including villagers and soldiers, were sifting through the rubble searching for survivors or bodies at site of the three-story building at an industrial park near Chittagong, about 215 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.

Most of the victims were women who burned to death or suffocated from smoke inhalation, a doctor at the medical college said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media. Six badly burnt bodies were found overnight Thursday.

The factory had only one main exit, and workers had to scramble through a lone narrow stairway to escape, while others jumped from windows, said fire official Rashidul Islam, quoting survivors. Firefighters took about three hours to control Thursday's blaze, which was exacerbated when an electric generator and boiler exploded, fire officials said.

Small fires continued to erupt sporadically, because of cloth and chemical dyes stored in the basement and wood-and-bamboo scaffolding on the under-construction fourth floor, Islam said. The fire may have been triggered by sparks from an electric tool, a fire investigator said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Police cordoned off the factory to prevent relatives and looters from rushing in, and local authorities ordered other nearby factories to stay shut. Textiles are Bangladesh 's main export earner, worth US$5 billion (4.2 billion) a year. The industry employs about 2 million workers, mostly women, and exports mainly to Europe and North America .

Many of the country's estimated 2,500 textile factories are built in violation of building codes or safety standards, and labor unions claim may lack emergency exits, fire extinguishers or alarms and first-aid equipment. At least 95 workers were killed and scores more injured in two separate accidents in garment factories last year, reports the AP.

N.U.