10 killed, dozens hurt in blast at Bangladeshi garment factory

DHAKA • A boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi garment factory has killed 10 people and injured dozens, fire officials said, the latest tragedy to hit one of the world's biggest garment producers.

The blast happened late on Monday at a plant owned by Multifabs, a Bangladeshi company on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka.

"Nine people were killed in the blast and one died in hospital," fire service official Palash Chandra Modak said yesterday.

The firm supplies knitted apparel to several clients in Europe, including to Littlewoods, one of Britain's oldest retail brands, according to its website.

The company said the plant was functioning well and the boiler, procured from Germany, had just been serviced.

The factory had been shut for 10 days during the Muslim fasting month and was being readied to resume operations yesterday.

"This was an accident. Everything was fine," said the company's chairman and managing director, Mr Mahiuddin Faruqui. "The boiler was running well. After servicing, when workers were trying to restart it, it went off," he added.

  • 4m Number of people employed in Bangladesh's garment-making industry

    80% Percentage of Bangladesh's export earnings generated by the garment-making industry

Bangladesh's garment-making industry, the biggest in the world after China's, employs four million people and generates 80 per cent of its export earnings.

Multifabs started operating in 1992, and reached US$70 million (S$97 million) in exports last year, supplying European brands such as fashion chain Lindex, which is part of Finnish retailer Stockmann, Mr Faruqui said.

The Multifabs unit hit by the blast turned out 100,000 pieces of garment a day, generating around US$6 million in revenue a month, according to factory and operations director Mesba Faruqui.

He said the boiler had been working for about an hour when it exploded. "We are surprised... Every year, around twice or thrice, the boiler is serviced by our men and men from Germany," he said.

Bangladesh's garment sector came under scrutiny after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 people, and, earlier, a fire at a garment factory in 2012 that killed 112 workers.

The Rana Plaza disaster sparked demands for greater safety and put the onus to act on foreign companies sourcing clothing from Bangladesh.

Activists had long criticised many retailers for failing to improve working conditions in their supply chains, with long hours, low pay, poor safety standards and workers not being allowed to form trade unions.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline '10 killed, dozens hurt in blast at Bangladeshi garment factory'. Print Edition | Subscribe