clear
Monday July 27th, 2015 9:27PM

Disney, Sears used factory in fire

By The Associated Press
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Amid the ash, broken glass and melted sewing machines at what is left of the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory, there are piles of blue, red and off-white children's shorts bearing Wal-Mart's Faded Glory brand. Shorts from hip-hop star Sean Combs' ENYCE label lay on the floor and are stacked in cartons.<br /> <br /> An Associated Press reporter searching the factory Wednesday found these and other clothes, including sweaters from the French company Teddy Smith, among the equipment charred in the fire that killed 112 workers Saturday. He also found entries in account books indicating that the factory took orders to produce clothes for Disney, Sears and other Western brands.<br /> <br /> Garments and documents left behind in the factory show it was used by a host of major American and European retailers, though at least one of them - Wal-Mart - had been aware of safety problems. Wal-Mart blames a supplier for using Tazreen Fashions without its knowledge.<br /> <br /> The fire has elevated awareness of something labor groups, retailers and governments have known for years: Bangladesh's fast-growing garment industry - second only to China's in exports - is rife with dangerous workplaces. More than 300 workers there have died in fires since 2006.<br /> <br /> Police on Wednesday arrested three factory officials suspected of locking in the workers who died in Saturday's fire, the deadliest in the South Asian country's less than 35-year history of exporting clothing.<br /> <br /> Local police chief Habibur Rahman said the three will be questioned amid reports that many workers trying to escape the blaze had been locked inside. He said the owner of the factory was not among those arrested.<br /> <br /> The three officials were arrested Wednesday at their homes in Savar, the Dhaka suburb where the factory is also located. Rahman did not identify the officials or give their job status.<br /> <br /> About 1,400 workers worked at the plant, some 70 percent of them women. Most are from the north, the poorest region of Bangladesh.<br /> <br /> Workers who survived the fire say exit doors were locked, and a fire official has said that far fewer people would have died if there had been even one emergency exit. Of the dead, 53 bodies were burned so badly they could not be identified; they were buried anonymously.<br /> <br /> The fire started on the ground floor, where a factory worker named Nasima said stacks of yarn and clothes blocked part of the stairway.<br /> <br /> Nasima, who uses only one name, and other workers said that when they tried to flee, managers told them to go back to their work stations, but they were ignored.<br /> <br /> Dense smoke filled the stairway, making it hard to see, and when the lights went out the workers were left in total darkness. Another worker, Mohammad Rajib, said some people used their cellphones to light their way.<br /> <br /> "Everyone was screaming for help," Nasima said. "Total chaos, panic and screaming. Everyone was trying to escape and come out. I was pulling the shirt of a man. I fainted and when I woke up I found myself lying on the road outside the factory.<br /> <br /> "I don't know how I survived."<br /> <br /> Rajib said the factory conducted a fire drill just three days before the fire broke out, but no one used the fire extinguishers. "Only a selected group of workers are trained to use the extinguishers. Others have no idea how to use them," he said.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> "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.'"<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> 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."<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Interior Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir have said arson is suspected. Police say they have not ruled out sabotage.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> Calls made to The Walt Disney Company and to Sears Holdings were not immediately returned.<br /> <br /> 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.<br /> <br /> Police used batons to disperse the protesters, but no injuries were immediately reported.<br /> <br /> According to local television, most factories in the area closed after opening briefly because of the protests - a common tactic to avoid violence.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Doctors: Blood clot located in Clinton's head
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a blood clot in her head but did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage, her doctors said Monday. They say they are confident that she will make a full recovery.
3:55PM ( 2 years ago )
Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke
Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week - a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.
3:54PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ga. ethics legislation could end free tickets
General Assembly approval next year of a proposed ethics reform measure could endanger an important fall tradition for Georgia lawmakers - free football tickets.
6:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Abortion restrictions, tax changes loom in Ga.
Tax breaks for manufacturers and higher unemployment taxes for employers take effect with the new year in Georgia, but it remains to be seen whether the state's newest abortion restrictions will be enforced.
6:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Business News
Couch names administrative team
Ahead of his scheduled swearing in Friday, Hall County Sheriff-elect Gerald Couch named his top administrative team Monday.
6:28PM ( 2 years ago )
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Hall Co. officials launch health-based initiative for employees
Hall County officials believe healthy county employees will be of greater service to the county. With that in mind, they have created a health-based fitness initiative to provide free fitness training for county workers.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Correction: Movie Theater Shooting story
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — In stories published July 25 about Louisiana movie theater gunman John Russell Houser, The Associated Press, relying on court filings his family's lawyer submitted to obtain a pr...
5:43PM ( 3 hours ago )
Gov't: Fiat Chrysler must offer to buy back 500,000 pickups
DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler must offer to buy back from customers more than 500,000 Ram pickup trucks and other vehicles in the biggest such action in U.S. history as part of a costly deal with safet...
12:29AM ( 20 hours ago )
Planned Parenthood official says no profit from fetal organs
The president of Planned Parenthood said Sunday her organization's clinics never adjust the abortion procedure to better preserve fetal organs for medical research.
6:01PM ( 1 day ago )
Beverage group sues city over soda warnings, advertising ban
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The American Beverage Association has sued the city of San Francisco, claiming new legislation requiring health warning labels on sugary beverages and prohibiting advertisements o...
4:10PM ( 1 day ago )
Planned Parenthood videos: No sign of political issue fading
Two videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they provide aborted fetal organs for research have put the group and its allies on the defensive - and its unclear how long the political damage may last.
7:50AM ( 1 day ago )