Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 29, 2012

Factory owner: I didn't know fire exits needed

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — The owner of a Bangladesh clothing factory where a fire killed 112 people says he was never informed the facility was required to have an emergency exit, a sign of how far removed the leaders of the nation's garment industry are from issues of worker safety.

"It was my fault. But nobody told me that there was no emergency exit, which could be made accessible from outside," factory owner Delwar Hossain was quoted Thursday as telling The Daily Star newspaper. "Nobody even advised me to install one like that, apart from the existing ones."

"I could have done it. But nobody ever suggested that I do it," said Hossain, who could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Activists in the South Asian country hope the tragedy will invigorate their lengthy — but so far fruitless — efforts to upgrade safety standards and force stronger government oversight of the powerful industry.

The Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory in a Dhaka suburb was making clothes for Wal-Mart, Sears, Disney and other major global retailers. When a fire broke out over the weekend, many of the 1,400 workers were trapped inside the eight-story building because exit doors were locked. A fire official said the death toll would have been much lower if the factory had had an emergency exit.

Police said they were interrogating three factory managers on possible negligence charges. Workers said as they tried to escape the fire they found exit doors were locked.

An AP reporter who visited the damaged factory Wednesday found three stairways but no special fire exits.

Hossain, a former accounts manager at another garment factory, set up his own clothing business, Tuba Textiles Mills Ltd. in 2004. The Tazreen factory was one of a dozen owned by his company.

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