Fire raced up the floors of a garment factory in Bangladesh, killing at least 112 people, many of them trapped in the eight-story building with no emergency exits where they make clothes for major global retailers.
The factory outside the capital, Dhaka, is owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which makes products for Wal-Mart and companies in the U.S. and Europe.
Firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building to escape, Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Media there reported that up to 124 people were killed. The cause of the blaze that began late Saturday was not immediately clear, and authorities ordered an investigation.
Army soldiers and border guards were helping keep order as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered, Mahbub said.
Tazreen was given a “high risk” safety rating after a May 16, 2011, audit conducted by an “ethical sourcing” assessor for Wal-Mart, according to a document posted on the Tuba Group’s website. It did not specify what led to the rating.
Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said online documents indicating an orange or “high risk” assessment after the May 2011 inspection and a yellow or “medium risk” report after an inspection in August 2011 appeared to pertain to the factory. The August 2011 letter said Wal-Mart would conduct another inspection within one year.
Gardner said it was not clear if that inspection had been conducted or whether the factory was still making products for Wal-Mart.
If a factory is rated “orange” three times in two years, Wal-Mart won’t place any orders for one year. The May 2011 report was the factory’s first orange rating.
Neither Tazreen’s owner nor Tuba Group officials could be reached to comment.
At the factory, relatives of the workers frantically looked for their loved ones.
Many victims were burned beyond recognition. The bodies were laid out in rows at a school nearby. Many of them were handed over to families; unclaimed victims were taken to Dhaka Medical College for identification.