Just six months after a catastrophic factory collapse killed over a thousand workers in Bangladesh, a new tragedy has struck the country's garment industry: WWD reports that a fire has killed at least nine and injured scores of others at the Aswad Composite Mills on the outskirts of Dhaka.
The fire was caused by a faulty machine, and spread so quickly over the factory's 250,000 square feet that it took firefighters over seven hours to get the blaze under control. Fortunately, the fire happened during the evening shift, when only about 170 workers were on hand, as opposed to the day shift when over 3,000 workers would have been present.
It's the latest in a string of tragedies over the course of the past year, including the Rana Plaza collapse, that have thrust the question of workers' rights in Bangladesh onto the international stage. Companies have been forced to address their labor and sourcing policies in the aftermath of Rana Plaza. Brands linked to the Aswad Composite Mills include the George brand—sold at UK discount retailer Asda, which is owned by Wal-Mart—as well as Loblaws and Hudson’s Bay Co., which are both Canadian companies.
Wal-Mart, of course, is a member of the controversial Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the North American counterpart to the European-based Accord on Fire and Building Safety. The Alliance has drawn criticism from labor groups for a lack of transparency and responsibility.
A factory source also told WWD that H&M and Primark have been linked to the factory, but it's unclear whether any orders were currently in production for those brands.