November 28, 2012

Disney, Sears used Bangladesh factory destroyed by fire

Garments and documents left behind in the factory show it was used by a host of major American and European retailers.

Julhas Alam / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A Bangladeshi police officer walks between rows of burnt sewing machines in a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday. At least 112 people were killed in a late Saturday night fire that raced through the multi-story garment factory just outside of Bangladesh's capital.

AP

The AP reporter who examined the factory Wednesday saw dozens of fire extinguishers with tags indicating they were inspected early this month. Many appeared unused.

Workers expressed support for the factory owner, Delwar Hossain. Rajib said he is "a gentle man" who heeded workers when they protested for more pay and against rough behavior by some managers.

"He took action and fired some of them," he said. "He did not sack any worker. He told us: 'You are my people. If you survive, I will survive.'"

Most the fire's devastation took place on the second and third floors. Sewing and embroidery machines and tables burned to ashes, ceiling fans melted and floor and wall tiles were broken, apparently because of excessive heat. Thick black ash covers everything in the upper floors of the eight-story building.

Much of the clothing on the lower floors was incinerated. Nightgowns, children's shorts, pants, jackets and sweat shirts were strewn about, piled up in some places, boxed in others. Cartons of kids' hooded sweaters, off-white with red and black print, were marked "Disney Pixar."

There were also at least four register books listing buyers including Wal-Mart, Disney, Sears and other companies. Also listed was Li & Fung, a Hong Kong-based buying house that is among the biggest suppliers of garment products from Bangladesh. Li & Fung issued a statement Monday saying it placed orders at the factory for just one company, Kids Headquarters, and that the value of those orders totaled just $111,000.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Interior Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir have said arson is suspected. Police say they have not ruled out sabotage.

Wal-Mart had received an audit deeming the factory "high risk" last year, said it had decided to stop doing business with Tazreen, but that a supplier subcontracted work to the factory anyway. Wal-Mart said it stopped working with that supplier on Monday.

Calls made to The Walt Disney Company and to Sears Holdings were not immediately returned.

Local TV reports said about 3,000 garment workers held protests over the fire Wednesday, blocking roads and throwing stones at some factories and vehicles. It was the third straight day of demonstrations, and as they did previously, factories in the area closed to avoid violence.

Police used batons to disperse the protesters, but no injuries were immediately reported.

According to local television, most factories in the area closed after opening briefly because of the protests — a common tactic to avoid violence.

 

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