Death trap

It did not look like a workplace — rather a set-up for confinement.

The factory of Tazreen Fashion Ltd, spreading across 131,750 sq ft, had no staircase mounted to the outside of the building — for emergency exit.

From outside, it appears each of the 16,145 sq ft-wide floors of the eight-storey building has adequate sources of ventilation by way of glass windows.

But it turns out the windows were securely bolted with iron frames from inside — leaving no room for airing or little scope for breaking in or out.

And nary an exhaust fan was in sight.

The upper two floors of the sprawling structure were not operational and hence padlocked, meaning it was difficult to rush to the rooftop in case of fire.

Even if one can make it to the rooftop, the absence of any water source denotes it would not be of much respite from the looming danger.

Inside, the building has only three staircases for 2,200 workers — and faulty fire extinguishers.

Panic erupted on the second, third and fourth floors of the building with the sounding of the fire alarm.

Governed by the sense of self-preservation, the workers rushed down the stairways only to be summoned back by the managers — saying the alarm system was acting up.

But the workers quickly sensed there was a fire, a fierce and deadly one.

They again rushed to the exit point — to find it locked from the outside.

It was too late. Trapped and engulfed in smoke, they died like chickens in gas chambers.

As the fire made its way in, it gobbled up parts of the floors — and everything that came in its way.

Adding to the desperately sorry scene was the narrow road leading to the factory, as the fire-fighters fought to manoeuvre their vehicles to the site. There was no source of water closeby, either.

In the aftermath of the country’s worst factory fire, hundreds of people flocked to the site and wondered why and how it happened.

One witness described the building as a death trap. Mohammad Sharif, a grocer in the neighbourhood who lost his parents-in-law in the blaze, said he saw a pile of dead bodies on different floors of the building. He turned 21 bodies over, but none of them were his in-laws.

After a visit to the factory site yesterday, Mubasshar Hussain, president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh, summed up it all: “All stairways lead to the warehouse on the ground floor. It was as if the workers were descending into infernal fires.”

Source: The Daily Star