Massive Fire Started By Angry Workers Destroys Factory That Supplied To Gap, Wal-Mart In Bangladesh

Additional garments destroyed in the fire were from other Western brands, including Wal-Mart, American Eagle, Uniqlo, and Zara.

1. Workers incensed by rumors of a co-worker’s death in a police firing burned down one of Bangladesh’s 10 biggest garment factories supplying to major Western brands on Nov. 29:

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

According to authorities, factory workers were enraged after a loudspeaker from a mosque announced a worker’s death during a police firing to disperse a road blockade by factory employees earlier that day.

Hundreds of workers gathered to vandalize the factory and set it on fire. They also blockaded the road, a Standard Garments’ manager told Reuters.

2. There were no casualties reported in the massive fire, which burned down the 10-story Standard Group garment factory in Gazipur, 25 miles from the capital, Dhaka.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

3. A senior manager for the Standard Group said it’s Gap’s biggest supplier in Bangladesh. However, Gap said while it’s a supplier, it is not the largest one. Six months’ worth of supplies for U.S. brands, including Gap and Wal-Mart, were burnt in the fire.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

In an e-mailed statement to BuzzFeed, Gap spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson said: “We are grateful that there are no reported injuries or casualties. It is too early to speculate on the cause of the blaze until authorities have conducted a full investigation.”

4. Other burnt garments included those from huge global brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Marks and Spencer, Sears, Uniqlo, and Zara. A Standard Group official estimated that the firm could lose well over $100 million in the fire.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

The factory was among the 10 biggest in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest apparel exporter with a $22 billion garment industry.

5. Firefighters struggled to douse the fire for more than 15 hours after workers torched it at midnight. Police fired shots to disperse the workers’ blockade and allow firefighters in.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

6. The factory employed around 18,000 people, who left the building an hour before the factory was set on fire. With the factory completely destroyed, they stand to lose their jobs.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

Wilkinson said, “We hope that factory management will help workers find employment in the interim.”

7. The workers’ claim of a colleague’s death in police firing was deemed as baseless by local officials who are investigating the incident.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

8. Bangladesh’s garment industry has been in the spotlight after the horrific Rana Plaza factory collapse and factory fires by disgruntled workers earlier this year.

Andrew Biraj / Reuters

The government, factory owners, and global retailers have come under fire from human rights organizations to reform labor laws and improve working conditions of the country’s apparel industry, which employs 4 million people.

Gap also found itself the unwitting target of outrage regarding Bangladesh’s garment factory conditions earlier this year, with labor rights groups launching a website called Gap Deathtraps.

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