A fire Tuesday night at a garment factory outside Bangladesh’s capital has killed at least 10 people, an official said.
Records from the factory indicate that clothing from Canadian grocer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. and Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay Co. were produced there.
However, Loblaw spokeswoman Julija Hunter said it didn’t place any product orders from the Aswad Composite Mills Ltd. Co., where the fire took place.
Loblaw has a “no tolerance” policy with all its suppliers when it comes to unauthorized outsourcing, she said. “We have seen documents that suggest there may have been such unauthorized production and we are investigating.”
Harsh and often unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry drew global attention after the collapse of an eight-storey factory building in April killed more than 1,100 people. Loblaw produced its Joe Fresh line at that factory.
The industry has experienced numerous fires, including one last November that killed 112 workers.
In Tuesday’s blaze, fire official Zafar Ahmed said 10 bodies were found inside the Aswad garment factory in Gazipur, outside Dhaka. He said several other people were injured while trying to escape from the building.
Tiffany Bourre, spokeswoman for Hudson’s Bay, said it placed its last order with the factory in October, 2012, for delivery in April, 2013. She did not say why the company decided not to put in subsequent orders with the plant, at a time when safety conditions in Bangladeshi factories were coming into question after the deadly April building collapse.
Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a workers’ advocacy group, says its staff on site at the fire on Tuesday spoke to factory employees who said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. produced its George clothing line at the plant. He said the factory’s parent company, Palmal Group, is a Wal-Mart supplier.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Megan Murphy said the retailer is “working to understand the facts and will take appropriate action based on our findings.”
Nevertheless, Bob Jeffcot, policy analyst at advocacy group Maquila Solidarity Network, said: “This is a problem that is not going away. … Hopefully this will be a wake-up call that these problems are going to reoccur.”
Authorities in Bangladesh and global clothing companies have pledged to improve safety standards.
Retailers, including Loblaw, agreed to a new Accord on Fire and Building Safety after the building collapse in April. But the group has not yet implemented any changes, or factory inspections, Mr. Jeffcott said.
Bangladesh earns $20-billion (U.S.) a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe. The sector employs about four million workers, mostly women.
At the scene of the fire on Tuesday, local journalist Iqbal Ahmed said the blaze occurred when the factory was closed for the day, but some employees were still inside working overtime.
Farhaduzzaman, a fire official, said the fire spread to two nearby buildings that also housed garment factories belonging to the Palmal Group of Industries. He said firefighters had doused the flames in two of the buildings and were seeking to bring the blaze under control in the third building. He could not immediately say whether any people were still trapped inside.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
With a report from Associated Press