As fire ravages Hashem Foods factory, search for missing workers is on. Some are underaged

As the flames roared out of the factory of Hashem Foods Ltd, a unit of Sajeeb Group, two women made a desperate dash towards the burning building, only to be stopped in their tracks by the police.

Published : 9 July 2021, 01:02 PM
Updated : 9 July 2021, 01:07 PM

Unable to hold back the tears, 'the duo, who gave their name only as Jhuma' and 'Lima', told law enforcers that they had come looking for their teenage sister, a  factory worker who had not been home since the fire broke out.

That sister, Israt Jahan Fuli, would soon become the 48th name on the list of missing persons drawn up by Rupganj Police on Friday.

Like Jhuma and Lima, many others had also gathered at the entrance of the Sajeeb Group's factory in search of their loved ones.

According to the families, most of the missing workers were under 18 years of age.

The factory in Rupganj's Karnagop processes juice, soft drinks and various other food products.

The death toll currently stands at 52 after rescuers retrieved 49 charred bodies from the debris of the burning factory on Friday.

The firemen almost tamed the blaze when it flared again at the fifth and sixth floor on Friday morning.

Anxious about their loved ones, the frustrations of the families of the workers trapped inside the factory soon boiled over into heated protests, culminating in clashes with the police.

Farzana, 14, had been working at the factory for the last few years for a montly salary of Tk 5,000, said her mother Jharna Begum. With a photo of her daughter in hand, Jharna was pacing restlessly about the factory compound for any word on Farzana's whereabouts.

Moumita, Farzana's colleague, was accompanying her. Among the products produced in the factory were Shezan Juice, 'chanachur', vermicelli, chocolate spread and other food products, said Moumita. She was off duty when the fire broke out on Thursday.

The factory employed many teenagers but they were not allowed to work the night shift, she added. could not any comment from Hashem Foods regarding the employment of underaged workers.

Fuli and her family are natives of Habiganj. As the coronavirus pandemic slashed their family income, Fuli's family was compelled to send her to work, said her sister Lima with a sigh.

The sisters, both garment factory workers, are now stricken with guilt for sending their youngest sibling to work.

"Garment factories do not allow underaged workers to work, but Hashem Foods gave them the opportunity. That is why many teenagers worked there," Lima said.

While listing the names of the missing workers, SI Mintu of Rupganj Police sought to pacify the panicked families by saying many of the workers were lost in the crowd and would be found soon.

"Please pray that that is the case with our sister as well," Lima said.