November 26, 2012 in Nation/World

Factory had been cited as ‘high risk’

Short circuit may have caused blaze
Associated Press
 

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Investigators suspect that a short circuit caused the deadly fire Saturday night at a garment factory outside the capital, Dhaka, said Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director.

The factory is owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which makes products for Wal-Mart, Ikea and other companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Wal-Mart says it previously stopped working with nearly 50 Bangladeshi factories because of fire danger. An assessment of Tazreen conducted for the retailer last year rated the company as a “high risk,” but Wal-Mart said Monday it did not know whether it was still buying products made at the factory.

Firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory and 12 more people died at hospitals after jumping from the building to escape the fire, Mahbub told the Associated Press on Sunday.

Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed.

Neither Tazreen’s owner nor Tuba Group officials could be reached for comment.

Tazreen was given a “high risk” safety rating after a May 16, 2011, audit conducted by an “ethical sourcing” assessor for Wal-Mart, according to a document posted on the Tuba Group’s website. It did not specify what led to the rating.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said online documents indicating an orange or “high risk” assessment after the May 2011 inspection and a yellow or “medium risk” report after an inspection in August 2011 appeared to pertain to the factory. The August 2011 letter said Wal-Mart would conduct another inspection within one year.

Gardner said it was not clear if that inspection had been conducted or whether the factory was still making products for Wal-Mart. If a factory is rated “orange” three times in two years, Wal-Mart won’t place any orders for one year. The May 2011 report was the first orange rating for the factory.

The Tuba Group is a major Bangladeshi garment exporter whose clients also include Carrefour and IKEA, according to its website. Its factories export garments to the U.S., Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, among other countries. The Tazreen factory, which opened in 2009 and employed about 1,700 people, made polo shirts, fleece jackets and T-shirts.

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