Firefighters battled for several hours to contain the fire, which broke out in the ground-floor warehouse of the nine-story Tazreen Fashion factory in the Ashulia industrial belt, 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of the capital Dhaka. The factory made clothes for international brands including Dutch chain C&A and the Hong Kong-based Li & Fung company, the AFP has reported.
Hundreds of workers, who got trapped in the building, were forced to leap from high windows to escape the raging fire and smoke. Most of the victims died as they jumped from the building, news agencies reported citing Bangladeshi police.
The authorities recovered 120 dead bodies, Sunday morning, Abu Nayeem Mohammad Shahidullah, director general of the fire brigade told news agencies, adding that the death toll was likely to go up.
The cause of the fire — the worst accident that has hit the booming garment industry in recent years — hasn’t been established.
Bangladesh is the world's biggest exporter of clothing after China and has around 4,500 garment factories that manufacture clothes for brands including Tesco, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl’s and Carrefour. However, enforcement of safety standards at the factories is believed to be lax, which has led to several accidents in the past.
In June, more than 300 garment factories in Ashulia were shut down for almost a week, following five days of violent protests by a half-million laborers demanding better wages.
Hundreds of people were injured in the unrest, during which tens of thousands of laborers clashed with the police, vandalized more than 100 vehicles and erected road blockades that affected the industry.
The employees work 10 to 16 hours a day, six days a week, for what is thought to be one of the lowest garment sector wages in the world.
Yet another tragedy struck Bangladesh’s southeastern port city of Chittagong Saturday evening, when a flyover construction collapsed killing at least 13 people.
Witnesses said more than 50 construction workers and vegetable hawkers had gathered near a pond, under the bridge when three concrete girders crashed to the ground, the AFP has reported.