Police in Bangladesh arrested eight people Saturday on murder charges in connection with a factory fire that killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door, a senior police official said.
The blaze began Thursday night at the Hashem Foods Ltd. factory in Rupganj, outside the capital Dhaka, sending huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Police discovered piles of bodies on Friday afternoon after the fire was extinguished.
“We have arrested them for murder charges,” Jayedul Alam, police superintendent for Narayanganj district, told The Associated Press by phone. “They are in our custody now.”
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that among those detained is the managing director of Sajeeb Group, which owns the factory.
The minister did not provide further details but said those responsible would be punished.
“It’s a murder,” Khan told reporters as he visited the factory site on Saturday.
WATCH | Factory fire claims at least 52 lives:
Suspects held in custody
By Saturday evening, a court in Dhaka allowed all eight suspects to remain in police custody for four days for interrogation.
Bangladesh has a tragic history of industrial disasters, including factories catching fire with workers locked inside.
Big international brands, which employ tens of thousands of low-paid workers in Bangladesh, have come under heavy pressure to improve factory conditions.
In similar cases, factory owners have faced culpable homicide charges for negligence, and it’s illegal for a factory to lock its exits when workers are inside during production hours.
Families seek to identify loved ones
The main exit of the factory that caught fire on Thursday was locked from the inside, a Fire Service and Civil Defence official said. Many of those who died were trapped.
One of them was 23-year-old Rima Akter, who made desperate calls to her family as the fire engulfed the factory.
Her mother and other family members struggled Saturday to identify the young woman’s remains in a hospital morgue.
“We have checked 36 body bags, but it is very difficult to identify her,” her brother-in-law Arafat Rahman said.
Akter’s mother, Josna Begum, cried as officials tried to reassure several families waiting outside the hospital that their loved ones’ bodies would be returned once DNA tests were completed.
“My daughter worked to provide for her educational expenses. She was attending online classes and exams. I have no one else in the world … what is there left for me to do now?” Begum said.
Prova Barman, the father of Kompa Rani Barman, who died in the fire, spoke to reporters in front of the factory on Saturday.
“My daughter’s body was found over here. She was on the third floor. The supervisor locked in many girls there, including my daughter, during the fire,” he said. “Many girls could not escape after the gate was locked.”
Other workers jumped from the upper floors, and at least 26 suffered injuries, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported Friday.