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Dangerous Conditions Remain in Bangladesh After Workers Died in Factory Fire

December 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: The deadly factory fires that took hundreds of lives in Pakistan and Bangladesh recently are raising questions about working conditions in developing countries.

We turn again to Hari Sreenivasan for the story.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Fire flared from the Tazreen Fashions factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, late into night on Nov. 24; 112 people died in the blaze. And reports quickly emerged of working conditions so dangerous that they never had a chance to escape.

Days of protests erupted over accounts of locked emergency exits, faulty fire extinguishers and, above all, callous management.

MAHAMUDUL HAQUE, Bangladesh (through translator): When the fire alarm was raised, our factory managers told us nothing had happened. Get back to your work. The next moment, flames of fire blew up. Everybody died, everyone. How can we deal with this?

HARI SREENIVASAN: In fact, such fires in Bangladesh have become all too common. The country sends goods all the over the U.S. and Europe. The Tazreen factory, for example, had links through subcontractors to retail giants such as Wal-Mart, Sears and Disney.

But safety is often ignored in the pressure to keep production moving for a global supply chain. The International Labor Rights Forum says more than 600 people have died in Bangladesh garment factory fires since 2005.

And the Tazreen blaze was followed two days later by a 12-story fire in another part of Dhaka. There were no deaths in that blaze.