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Workers stage fresh protests over Ashulia fire
DHAKA, Nov 28, 2012 (BSS) - Hundreds of workers took the street at suburban Ashulia industrial hub today demanding enhanced workplace safety after the Saturday's inferno that left 111 people while officials feared the fire to be an act of sabotage to create a negative impact on foreign buyers.

Police and witnesses said most garment units at Ashulia announced a sudden closure for the day as protestors laid a siege on the Dhaka-Tangail highway coming out of their factories and stoned and damaged several vehicles prompting intervention of riot police.

They said some 20 people were injured during sporadic clashes, chases and counter chases for more than two hours.

"An electric short-circuit with a big bang at one of the factories caused fresh panic temporarily angering further the workers though the accident did not cause any fire or injury," a police official on the spot told BSS.

But, he said, the demonstrators, also vandalized a factory and set two motorcycles parked in front of it afire apart from hurling stones on vehicles as they took to the street for the second consecutive day.

Meanwhile, a Dhaka court today placed three officials of fire-devastated Tazreen Fashion Ltd on a five-day remand after their overnight arrest as initial enquiries indicated the tragedy could an act of sabotage.

Police said the three officials were responsible for regulating the factory workers while they padlocked all the collapsible gates when the fire broke out at the factory on Saturday.

"If the accused acted responsibly, the victims and others survivors might have escaped the accident," a police official said.

Police, meanwhile, restricted entry to the Tazreen Fashions factory declaring the burnt factory structure "extremely vulnerable" and feared it might collapse posting a banner at the factory earlier today.

The development came a day after national flag was kept half mast as Bangladesh observed yesterday a state mourning for the Saturday night garment factory inferno victims who were laid to their eternal rest through a mass burial in city's Jurain graveyard.

Fifty-two of the dead remained undignified as the deadly blaze burnt them beyond recognition while investigations were underway into the inferno amid suspicions it was an act of sabotage, endangering the country's key-economic sector.

"Actions will be taken on the basis of those (investigation) reports," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told opening an earlier scheduled textile fair in the capital.

She noted that the fire in factories could not be doused immediately due to absence of any water source near the scene and asked the factory owners to ensure safe exits and construct water reservoir while setting up any industry.

The apex body of garment factory owners, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), claimed the
factory complied with the safety standards while the fire service too in their initial observation found no major safety lapses.

"Our initial enquiry shows the Tazreen Fashion (the factory where the blaze killed 111) authorities kept all required equipment in place alongside three separate staircases so workers could quickly escape the scene," fire service director general brigadier general (retd) Abu Nayem Mohammad Shahidullah told BSS.

He said it appeared that toxic smokes blinded the workers emitting from the highly flammable acrylic cotton at the factory to causing the tragedy "which could merely be an accident if not sabotage".
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