Bangladesh clothing factory hit by deadly fire

Emily Thomas reports on the latest disaster in Bangladesh's garment factories

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At least nine people have been killed in a fire at a clothing factory near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, emergency officials say.

Local media said about 50 people had been hurt in the fire, which broke out late on Tuesday in Gazipur.

It was feared the number of people killed could rise.

Safety standards in Bangladesh's garment factories are notoriously poor. More than 1,100 people died in April when a factory outside Dhaka collapsed.

Another 2,500 people were injured in the disaster in the Ashulia district on the outskirts of the capital, where most of the clothing industry is based.

Last November, 112 workers were killed in a fire at another clothes factory in the area.

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The cause of the latest fire was not immediately clear, but reports said it broke out at a knitting section of Aswad Composite Mills.

A local official at the scene said that fire fighters had been unable to recover any bodies.

One man came to the site to find his uncle told the BBC that he had not been able to find him.

"I found out that the fire started from a [textile] machine," he said. "When the silencer of the machine exploded, the fire spread and the factory caught fire.

"Immediately after the fire many people ran out of the factory but a few could not get out."

Reports quoted officials saying water shortages and a lack of nearby fire stations had allowed the blaze to escalate and continue for several hours.

Factory Director Emdad Hossain told the Daily Star in Bangladesh that 170 workers were on duty on the two floors when the fire broke out.

"Almost all of them managed to come out of the building," he said.

Mr Hossain suffered injuries while rushing out of the building.

Although most members of a reported workforce of 3,000 had left the building for the day, those killed are thought to have been working overtime.

District administrator Dilruba Khanom said that emergency services were waiting until sunrise to complete their search of the factory. They warned that the number of casualties could rise.

"They have managed to control the fire in most parts of the factory, but the warehouse is still burning," he said. "The bodies are charred beyond recognition."

Police officer Ameer Hossain told the Daily Star that nine bodies had been recovered. Other accounts put the toll at 10.

Clothing makes up around three-quarters of Bangladesh's total exports, and the factory collapse prompted protests and calls for improved safety measures.

Dozens of international retailers agreed a plan last July to conduct inspections at factories from which their goods were sourced.

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