Factory fire at Dhaka company linked to Primark kills eight

Tragedy comes as death toll from Bangladesh's worst ever industrial accident rises above 900

LAST UPDATED AT 09:47 ON Thu 9 May 2013

AS THE death toll from Bangladesh's worst ever industrial accident rose to more than 900, a fire at a nearby garment factory linked to cut-price clothing firm Primark has killed eight.

The Daily Telegraph reports the blaze at Tung Hai Group's factory in the Mirpur industrial district of Dhaka broke out at 11pm last night – four hours after the factory should have been closed according to local law in the capital. The company lists Primark, Peacock, New Look and Irish retailer Penney's as buyers.

It was claimed employees were not working when the fire broke out. But Amirul Haque Amin, leader of the Bangladesh garment workers' union NGWF, told the Telegraph some were still busy in the company's finishing section.

"These companies should make workplaces which follow the law. In this case, if the finishing section was working at 11 pm, it should have stopped. By law it should stop after ten hours, but the fire happened at 11pm," he said.

According to unconfirmed reports, the factory's owner, four staff and two police officers were among those killed in the fire. Mahbubur Rahman, of the Dhaka fire service, told the BBC victims had suffocated after being overwhelmed "by toxic smoke from burnt acrylic clothing".

The tragedy follows the collapse of the eight-storey Rana building factory last month where at least 912 people died. Clothes for Primark, Benetton and Mango had all been made at the site. Since the accident, Bangladesh has closed 18 of its clothing factories on safety grounds.

In the wake of the Rana disaster, the European Union said last week it was considering halting trade perks to promote "responsible management" in the country's clothing factories. In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and trade commissioner Karel de Gucht said they remain "very concerned" about conditions in textile companies and are considering action through the Generalised System of Preferences, which gives Bangladesh quota-free access to EU markets.

Bangladesh has one of the largest clothing industries in the world, employing around 3.6 million people. Some earn as little as $38 a month. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.