Workers said there is a vermicelli (semai) factory at a section of the 4th floor while workers live in another section. There is a carton factory on the 5th floor of the building. There are factories of liquid lollipops and liquid chocolates in the 3rd floor, organic beverages (juice, lassi) on the 2nd floor, toast biscuits and beverages on the first floor and boxes and polythene factories on the ground floor, the workers added.
The fire broke out at the ground floor of the six-storey building around 5:00pm Thursday. Immediately after the incident, two workers, Swapna Rani, 44, and Mina Akhter, 34, jumped from the building and died on the spot. Later, another worker, Mursalin, 28, who jumped from the third floor, succumbed to his injuries at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) around 11:00pm.
Around 7,000 workers work at the factory, but around 1000-1200 workers would work in the building that caught fire, said Abdul Jalil and Abu Samad, operators at the factory.
Fire service official Abdullah Al Arefin told Prothom Alo that they are facing problems to douse the blaze as there are chemicals and inflammable objects in the factory building. The fire fighters are working cautiously as cracks have appeared in the building, he added.
A fire service source informed Prothom Alo that the fire service men have found several charred bodies from a section of 3rd floor of the building when they entered the building around 5:00am as the blaze had somewhat decreased. However, the source did not say anything about the number of bodies.
The relatives of workers are crowding in the area to know the whereabouts of their dear ones. As of 9:00am, at least 23 relatives mentioned names of their dear ones to Prothom Alo. The local administration, however, has not taken as yet any initiative to make a list of the missing people.
Most of the missing are child workers
Shanta Moni, a 12-year-old child, enrolled as a labourer at the factory on Wednesday to help her family. The fire broke out on the next day and now she is missing.
Shanta’s mother Shimu said she sent lunch for her daughter at the factory.
Prothom Alo correspondent could talk to relatives of at least 18 missing people as of 4:00am Friday. According to the information they provided, most of them are child labourers. The missing are – Shanta, 12, Munna 14, Shahana, 15, Nazmul, 15, Ripon, 17, Rahima, 35, Amrita, 19, Takia, 14, Himu, 16, Sifia, 30, Amena, 17, Mahmud, 15, Taslima, 17, Kompa, 16, Shefali, 20 and Ismail, 18. Age of missing Naim and Mohammad Ali could not be ensured.
‘Slow pace in rescue work’
The relatives of missing workers and the factory workers gathered in the area have complained about the slow pace in the rescue work. They have vandalised a number of vehicles on Dhaka-Sylhet highway and an ATM Booth of a private bank in the area.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Narayanganj assistant superintendent of police (Ga Circle) Abir Hossain said relatives have sought information of at least 20 missing workers to police as of 2:00am Friday.
“Relatives of missing workers are gathering around. But nothing could be said as the fire has not been brought under control. Within 15 minutes of vandalisation of the ATM Booth and vehicles, police talked to the relatives and brought the situation under control,” he added.
Rupganj upazila nirbahi officer Shah Nusrat Jahan said the fire service men have rescued 12 workers unscathed from the factory.