Bangladesh's garment factory scrutiny
02:55 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The factory was not authorized to make merchandise for Wal-Mart, company says

The company cuts ties with a supplier that subcontracted work to the factory

A trading company based in Hong Kong offers financial aid to victims' families

More than 100 people were killed in the blaze in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh CNN  — 

Prominent retailers and clothing suppliers are scrambling to clarify their links to a garment factory in Bangladesh that caught fire over the weekend, killing more than 100 people.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday that the Tazreen Fashion factory in Ashulia, near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for its stores.

“A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies. Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier,” Wal-Mart said Monday.

The clothing factory, housed in a multistory building near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, caught fire Saturday night.

The toll makes it “the most deadly factory fire in the history of the apparel industry in Bangladesh,” according to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a workers advocacy group.

The range of international companies being linked to the Tazreen facility highlights the complex web of global supply chains in the clothing industry.

Li & Fung, a large trading company that supplies international retailers, said that it had placed orders worth more than $100,000 with the Tazreen factory this year for Kids Headquarters, part of its U.S. subsidiary. But it said it had not made orders for other customers with Tazreen.

Li & Fung, which is based in Hong Kong, said it was very distressed and saddened by the deaths of workers” at the factory. It said it was offering the equivalent of about $1,200 to the family of each victim of the blaze. It also said it was setting up a fund for the education of victims’ children.

Fire rips through clothing factory near Dhaka

The big loss of life has provoked anger among workers in Bangladesh’s huge garment industry.

Thousands of workers from dozens of clothing factories in Ashulia took to the streets Monday to protest the deaths of their colleagues. The protesters blocked traffic and demonstrated for several hours, demanding compensation and a full investigation into what happened.

The Bangladeshi government has ordered such an investigation, asking two committees to file reports within a week.

A period of national mourning was also held Tuesday for those killed at the factory and for the victims from a recent overpass collapse in southeastern Bangladesh.

Overpass collapse kills 11 in Bangladesh

All apparel factories were to be closed Tuesday, and special prayers offered at mosques, churches and temples.

As well as Wal-Mart and Li & Fung, other big companies were dealing with the fallout from the disaster. The ILRF published a list of companies whose brand logos had been found on clothing and documents at the factory.

They included Dickies, whose owner, Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co., said it had concluded its “production schedule” with Tazreen earlier this year.

Williamson-Dickie aims to “ensure the global vendors and suppliers we work with provide a safe work environment in accordance with all applicable laws and fair labor practices,” the company said.

The ILRF also said that the True Desire brand sold at the retailer Sears was among those linked to the factory.

Sears Holdings said that it does not source products from the Tazreen factory and recognizes the critical importance of fire safety.

“Any merchandise found at that factory should NOT have been manufactured there and we are currently investigating further,” the company said in a statement.

Even as Bangladesh prepared to mourn the deaths from the weekend fire, firefighters battled a blaze at another apparel factory near Dhaka on Monday.

Police and witnesses said the latest fire, at a 10-story clothing factory in the suburb of Uttara, began Monday morning, and it took firefighters about four hours to bring it under control.

“Firefighters have brought the flames under control, and no one died in the incident,” Brigadier Gen. Abu Nayeem Mohammad Shahidullah, director general of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, told reporters.

Local police said at least 10 people were injured in Uttara as they jumped from windows to escape.

They said the fire began on the second floor, where a large quantity of fabric and yarn were stored, and it spread immediately to the fourth floor.

Bangladesh’s ready-made garments make up 80% of the country’s $24 billion in annual exports.

The country has about 4,500 garment factories that make clothes for stores including Tesco, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl’s and Carrefour. The sector earned $19 billion this year as of June.

The state-run news agency, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), recently reported that some 6,000 people die every year in fires in the country.

The accounts of survivors from the blaze on Saturday night underlined the panic and chaos at the scene.

“How the factory caught fire, I don’t know. But when we heard ‘fire,’ we all rushed out and we were trying to get out of the factory,” said Parul Begum, a survivor.

“One factory worker broke a window and one of the workers pulled me through. After the fire, we tried to run out the door, but it was locked. When the floor (became) dark with smoke, the boys came to rescue me,” she said.

CNN’s Atika Shubert and Jethro Mullen, and journalist Farid Ahmed contributed to this report.