After the fire spread, several managers of the factory advised the workers to stay in an air-conditioned room on the fourth floor in the northwest of the building. Chocolates were made in this room. Some 49 bodies of workers were rescued from this room on Friday noon.
The managers, who gave them this advice, are also missing. It is assumed that they have also died. Police filed a case with Rupganj police station on Saturday against eight people including Hashem Foods chairman Abul Hashem.
After the arrest, they all were produced at the chief judicial magistrate's court in Narayanganj. Police sought a ten-day remand for each of them. The court granted a four-day remand for each of the arrested persons.
If those who remained in a room of the 4th floor, could reach rooftop through a staircase to the southeast, all of them could survive. The fire did not reach the rooftop.
Earlier on Saturday noon, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, while visiting the affected factory, told journalists that people responsible for the death of 52 workers would be brought to book. Eventually he said that chairman and seven other top officials of the Hashem Foods had been detained in a murder case with Rupganj police station.
The home minister added that further action would be taken if the probe committee finds evidence of child labour in the factory and also the number of child labourers there. He said the probe committee would investigate whether there were faults in construction of the factory.
At 5:00pm on Thursday, a fire broke out at Hashem Foods factory. Fire fighters took 19 hours to douse the flames. The rescue operation was completed on Saturday afternoon. Fire Service and Civil Defence officials said the fire-affected building was risky and no longer usable. Several parts of the building collapsed after the inferno. The building was later handed over to Rupganj police and the factory authorities.
49 corpses in one AC room
The fire service department, after its initial investigation, traced the origin of the fire at the ground floor. However, there were not definite about the causes -- whether the fire originated from a short circuit, gas leakage or anything else. Several video clips suggest that the fire engulfed the other floors of the building within a minute it broke out on the ground floor.
Some clips obtained by Prothom Alo show that fire-trapped workers jumped from the upper floors when the fire broke out. Three of those workers died of injuries.
Assistant director of the fire service, Monir Hossain said that 49 bodies were found inside a large air-conditioned room at northwest corner of the 3rd floor.
Tithy Sirker, 14, used to make chocolates at the 3rd floor. She told Prothom Alo that along with 11 other workers, she rushed to the rooftop through a southeast staircase when thick smoke made their breathing difficult. Her cousin Kampa Barman, took shelter in the AC room rather than rushing to the rooftop.
Akima Khatun also worked at the 3rd floor. Her son Mostakin too was an employee at the factory. Mostakin would have worked on Thursday night. Before his night shift started, he got the news and rushed to the factory. After the fire broke out, his mother Akima called him over phone and said she took shelter at the AC room. Akima’s name is now on the list of missing workers.
Mostakin has given his sample for his mother’s DNA test.
Prothom Alo correspondents talked to relatives of 25 among the missing workers and five survivors. Most of them claimed that workers took shelter in the AC room as requested by factory officers.
Worker Jalal Uddin would work on the fifth floor. He said they learnt a few minutes after that a fire broke out at the factory. When the smoke engulfed the building, they were have problems breathing and broke the steel mesh to go the rooftop from the 5th floor. They survived as they reached the rooftop.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, fire service inspector Towhidul Islam said if those who remained in a room of the 4th floor, could reach rooftop through a staircase to the southeast, all of them could survive. The fire did not reach the rooftop.
60 drums of oil were kept at the factory that day
Except on the ground and the sixth floor, there were different types of chemicals for food processing on the remaining four floors.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Hashem Foods assistant engineer Abu Sayeed Imdadul Islam said 60 drums of palm oil were kept on the ground floor of the building on the day of the fire.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Sadiqur Rahman.