Probe faults negligence of Hashem Foods, government agencies for fire killing 51

Irregularities at Hashem Foods Ltd and failure of government agencies led 51 workers to die in a fire at the company’s factory in Narayanganj’s Rupganj, investigators say.

Published : 8 August 2021, 08:16 PM
Updated : 8 August 2021, 08:16 PM

The irregularities at the factory included breach of building code in the construction, the lack of a fire safety system, absence of clearance from the Department of Environment and Fire Service and Civil Defence, and the use of child labour.

The investigators of the district administration also believe the fire incident and the casualties could have been averted had the Department of Labour and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment properly monitored the factory. 

Narayanganj Additional Deputy Commissioner Shamim Bepari, who headed an investigation committee of the administration, submitted the report to Deputy Commissioner Mustain Billah last Thursday.    

The authorities will forward the report to the cabinet secretary and relevant government ministries so that they can take steps based on the findings, Mustain said on Sunday.  

The fire started from an electric short-circuit in the central compressor room on the ground floor of the factory, he said, citing the report.

Fuelled by flammables, it spread across the factory quickly, panicking the workers.

“When they wanted to evacuate, the in-charge of the third floor stopped them, saying nothing would happen. The official and the workers could not get out. They were burned alive,” said the DC.

The investigators have made 20 recommendations, including action against the owner and strong monitoring, to avoid the recurrence of such disaster.

They have also recommended compensation for the families of the dead workers and the injured victims.

It took the fire crews 48 hours to bring the blaze under control after the fire erupted on Jul 8.

The bodies of the 51 victims were burnt so badly that they could not be recognised. The authorities recently handed the remains of 45 victims to the families after DNA tests.   

Abul Hashem, chairman and managing director of parent company Sajeeb Group, and his four sons, who are also directors of the firm, had been arrested and questioned in remand before being released on bail in a case on culpable homicide charges over the deadly fire.   

Besides the administration, Fire Service and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment formed committees to investigate the tragedy.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher