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Bangladesh fire destroys key garments factory

A firefighter tries to control a fire inside a Standard Group garment factory in Gazipur November 29, 2013. A huge fire on Friday destroyed the Bangladesh garment factory supplying key Western brands, authorities said, in a blaze touched off by workers angered over rumours of a colleague's death in police firing.

Andrew Biraj/Reuters

A massive blaze apparently set by angry workers swept through a garment factory outside Bangladesh's capital.

The fire is the latest in a series of incidents – including the collapse of an eight-storey factory that killed more than 1,100 people in April – related to troubles and strife in Bangladesh's apparel sector.

There were no reports of death or injuries in the fire that was reported Friday at a 10-storey building in Gazipur, 40 kilometres north of Dhaka.

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A Reuters photographer on site said burnt garments found at the scene sported brand names from U.S. retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Gap Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Brands for Sears Canada Inc. were also spotted, according to Reuters.

Sears Canada officials were not immediately available to confirm the factory made product for them.

Local authorities said the blaze was started by workers who were furious over rumours of a colleague's death in a firing into the air by police to break up an earlier road blockade.

Harsh and often dangerous working conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry have raised concerns globally over the use of suppliers in the area by high-profile U.S., Canadian and European retailers.

Retailers, including Loblaw Cos. Ltd. – which markets a line of clothes under the Joe Fresh banner – signed on to a new accord on fire and building safety after the tragic building collapse in April.

Bangladesh pulls in about $20-billion (U.S.) a year – almost 80 per cent of the country's total export earnings – from garment exports, mostly to the United States and Europe.

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Two months ago, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in clashes with thousands of clothing workers who are demanding higher minimum wages.

With files from Reuters

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More


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