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Fire breaks out at H&M supplier in Bangladesh

A serious fire has broken out at a garment factory in Bangladesh, which supplies H&M and US retailer JC Penney, according to public records.

The Bangladesh fire service said some injuries have been sustained but no further details have been given, reported garment workers’ rights group the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC).

The fire broke out at the Matrix Sweaters factory in Gazipur at around 7am this morning and took firefighters around six hours to extinguish. The factory was reported to be largely empty as it was before workers had started their shifts, but local video footage suggests some people were inside.

Firefighters told the Bangladesh newspaper BDNews24 that poisonous gases were released when the sweaters, which were made of acrylic and synthetic material, began to burn.

H&M discloses its suppliers as part of its sustainability efforts and rated the Matrix Sweaters factory, which employs around 6,000 people, as “silver” on its website.

A spokeswoman for H&M told Drapers: “It has been confirmed to us that there has been a fire at one factory that produces for H&M. Our team in Dhaka is closely monitoring the situation.”

JC Penney was also a significant buyer from the factory last year, according to import records cited by CCC, while other brands that appear on the website of its parent company Labib Group/Nice Cotton include Marks & Spencer, Walmart, Inditex and Gap.

According to the Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, the factory was inspected by the US-based Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in 2014 and revealed a number of safety hazards including a lack of adequate fire exits, no fire doors and insufficient smoke alarms.

The repairs were due to be completed by September 2014, but the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh said yesterday that 63% of the mandatory safety renovations were still incomplete.

“We are extremely relieved that this fire hasn’t resulted in another tragedy on the scale of the Tazreen factory fire of 2012,” said Sam Maher of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

“However this is more down to luck than anything else – had the fire broken out just a few hours later, it is more than possible that workers would have found themselves trapped. We urge all buyers from Bangladesh, including those who signed up to the Accord or the Alliance, to do more to get these vital repairs done without delay.”

A fire at Matrix Sweaters broke out in 2010, causing the death of one person.


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