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Bangladesh factory blast and fire leaves 26 dead and 70 injured

12 September 2016

At least 26 workers were killed and 70 injured, many of them in a critical condition, in an explosion and fire at a food and cigarette packaging factory in the Tongi industrial area near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. Initial reports said the fire was caused by a boiler explosion, but other reports say the blast was due to a gas leak.

Stock image
Stock image

Chemicals may have been stored on the Tampaco Foils factory ground floor, which officials said would explain how the fire spread so rapidly. Much of the building collapsed, and emergency services were still searching for survivors the following day.

The cause of the September 10 explosion was unclear, officials said. Three committees have been set up to investigate the incident.

The company chairman, Dr Syed Mokbul Hussain, told the Dhaka Tribune that the fire was probably caused by “the fluctuating gas supply in the factory”. When asked if a technical failure in the machinery might have caused the fire, he said: “We regularly repair our machines and the older ones are replaced promptly.”

He said his factory, which employed 475, did not violate any building codes and that there were adequate safety measures and fire safety equipment, but that when the fire started workers might not have taken safety considerations into account.

Lt Col Musharaf Hossain, a Fire Service and Civil Defence director, told reporters that the fire originated from a boiler explosion, but MA Mannan, chief inspector of boilers, said he had sent an inspector to the factory site who found no damage to the factory’s two boilers.

Bangladesh experienced one of its worst industrial accidents when the eight-story Rana Plaza complex, which housed several garment factories, collapsed in 2013, killing more than 1,100. Five months earlier, a garment factory fire killed 112 workers.

In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse, broad structural and fire safety reforms were put into effect, and global apparel companies agreed to help Bangladesh with fire safety and building improvements. But building safety in other industries has attracted less scrutiny.

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