Teenage worker, who leapt from burning factory, now recognises her parents

Driven to work at a factory to keep the hunger pangs at bay, 13-year-old Halima Akhter almost paid for her family's plight with her life. As a devastating fire began to engulf Sajeeb Group's six-storey food and beverage factory in Narayanganj, Halima leapt from the second floor of the burning building in desperation to save her life.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 11 July 2021, 01:19 PM
Updated : 11 July 2021, 01:19 PM

After suffering serious injuries to her head and face from the fall, the teenager was almost unconscious as she was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital on Jul 8.

Three days later, Halima has regained her senses and is now able to recognise her parents and relatives.

Her mother Shahana Akhter could finally breathe a sigh of relief after speaking to Halima for the time since the tragedy unfolded.

"I wasn't able to find my daughter after the accident. I went to the factory and cried a lot. I visited different hospitals and eventually found her at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on Thursday night,” said Shahana, a garment factory worker.

“She hadn't spoken for so long. She finally started talking today and was able to recognise us."

Asked why she let such a young girl work, she curtly replied, "The poor know no age!"

Halima's uncle Mahbub Alam said they hail from Palgaon village in Netrokona's Mohanganj. Halima's elder sister Sadia also worked in the same factory. But she survived as she was on the night shift on Thursday.

The fire that claimed at least 50 lives has shone an ugly light on child labour at the Hashem Foods factory, owned by Sajeeb Group. The products manufactured at the factory included Nocilla spread, Tang drink mix, Shezan Juice, Bournvita health drink and Kolson macaroni.

The police on Friday arrested Abul Hashem, chairman and managing director of Sajeeb Group, and seven others on culpable homicide charges.

A Dhaka court later placed them on a 4-day remand in custody for questioning over the incident.

Brig Gen Nazmul Haque, director of DMCH, said three people were admitted to the hospital in connection with the factory fire. Their condition is improving, according to him.

The other victims are Amena Begum, 35, and Majeda Begum, 28.

Amena's 13-year-old daughter Priya said her mother worked on the second floor of the factory. After the fire broke out, she jumped down and severely hurt her waist and hands.

She, too, worked in the factory along with her brother Ronnie,19, but they were supposed to work the night shift that day.

Majeda, who also worked on the second floor of the factory, lived in Narayanganj's New Market area with her husband and their four children.

Having jumped from the second floor during the fire, Majeda injured her head, hands and face, according to her uncle Jalal Uddin.

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