FACTBOX-Grief and neglect: 10 factory disasters in South Asia

by Annie Banerji | @anniebanerji | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 10 December 2019 14:09 GMT

Relatives of victims killed in Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, mourn at the site during the sixth anniversary of the collapse in Savar, on the outskirt of Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Image Caption and Rights Information
The blaze at a building in India's capital housing workers making school bags and toys was blamed by campaigners on a lack of workplace safety

By Annie Banerji

NEW DELHI, Dec 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A fire that ripped through a New Delhi factory on Sunday and killed at least 43 workers has highlighted the perils of manual labour in South Asia.

The blaze at a building in India's capital housing workers making school bags and toys was blamed by campaigners on a lack of workplace safety.

Here are ten deadly industrial incidents in South Asia involving negligence and scant safeguards for workers:

- Rana Plaza disaster

A factory built on swampy ground near Bangladesh's capital Dhaka collapsed in early 2013, killing over 1,000 people, most of them women producing clothes for Western labels.

Workers had previously complained about cracks in the eight-storey building.

It was the garment industry's deadliest recorded incident and put pressure on global brands to improve factory conditions and sign an accord on worker safety.

- Pakistan factory fire

On Sept. 11, 2012, nearly 300 people burned to death in a fire at a garment factory in Pakistan's commercial capital of Karachi. According to investigations, emergency exits were blocked. On the same day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore city killed 25.

- Bangladesh garment factory blaze

A fire that tore through a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in late 2012 killed 112 mostly women workers.

Bangladeshi authorities blamed "saboteurs" for setting alight stockpiles of cotton. Survivors said that factory managers prevented workers from fleeing the multi-storey building when the fire alarm went off.

- Pakistan factory collapse

Forty-four people died when a Pakistani plastic bag factory collapsed in Lahore in November 2015.

Survivors said the owner added a new floor to the building and ignored advice to stop construction after cracks appeared in the building following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

- India fireworks factory blaze

A fire that started in an unlicensed Indian factory producing fireworks in 2012 turned into a raging inferno, killing about 40 people.

It was the latest in a string of accidents in a town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu known as India's fireworks capital.

- Bangladesh food factory fire

A blaze at a food and cigarette packing factory in Dhaka in 2016 highlighted risks for workers three years after safety measures were introduced following the Rana Plaza disaster.

Thirty-nine people perished. A month earlier, more than 100 people fell ill after inhaling gas that leaked from a fertilizer factory in the southern port town of Chittagong.

- Bhopal gas tragedy

On the night of Dec. 2, 1984, a pesticide factory owned by the U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corp leaked cyanide gas into the air, killing thousands of largely poor Indians in the central city of Bhopal.

The government recorded 5,295 deaths in what is considered one of the world's worst industrial disasters. Activists estimate 25,000 people died in the aftermath.

- Bangladesh boiler blast

A boiler that exploded in a garment factory near Dhaka in 2017 deepened concerns about deadly mishaps in the world's second largest garment producer.

It prompted fresh calls for more effective implementation of regulations put in place after the Rana Plaza collapse.

- Sri Lanka rubber factory accident

A Sri Lankan worker at a rubber factory fell into a tank of ammonia in 2018 and perished along with four others who tried to save him.

Workers complained that there were no safety measures or warning systems in the plant.

- Maldives water plant fire

About 100,000 people were left without safe drinking water in Male, capital of the Maldives, after a fire broke out at the country's sole sewage treatment plant.

The incident saw several countries respond with aid assistance including Sri Lanka and India.

Sources: Reuters, International Labour Organization, Clean Clothes Campaign, Human Rights Watch, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

(Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Tom Finn; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.