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Wal-Mart distances itself from fire in Bangladesh

9:18 AM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
Bangladeshi onlookers watch Monday as firefighters try and control a fire that broke out at a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka.(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
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DHAKA, Bangladesh -- The garment factory in Bangladesh where a weekend fire killed at least 112 people had been making clothes for Wal-Mart without the giant U.S. retailer's knowledge, Wal-Mart said.

Wal-Mart said the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for Wal-Mart but that a supplier subcontracted work to it "in direct violation of our policies."

"Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier," America's biggest retailer said in its statement Monday. "The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh."

The blaze on Saturday was one of the deadliest fires at a garment factory in Bangladesh and highlighted how its garment factories often ignore safety in the rush to supply major retailers in the U.S. and Europe. More than 300 people have died over the past six years in garment factory fires in the South Asian country.

Survivors of the weekend fire said an exit door was locked, fire extinguishers didn't work and apparently were there just to impress inspectors, and that when the fire alarm went off, bosses told workers to return to their sewing machines. Victims were trapped or jumped to their deaths from the eight-story building, which had no emergency exits.

On Monday, about 15,000 Bangladeshi workers protested blocks from the gutted building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, demanding justice for the victims and improved safety. Some 200 factories were closed for the day after the protest erupted. Demonstrators blocked a major highway, threw stones at factories and smashed vehicles.

Labor leaders hope outrage over the latest disaster will prompt change. Tahmina Rahman, general secretary of the Bangladesh Garment Workers Federation, said government needs to do more to punish factories for safety lapses.

"The owners go unpunished and so they don't care about installing enough security facilities," she said. "The owners should be held responsible and sent to jail."

Associated Press

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