DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — At least 112 people were killed in a fire that raced through a multi-story garment factory just outside of Bangladesh's capital, an official said Sunday.
The blaze broke out at the seven-story factory operated by Tazreen Fashions late Saturday. By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department Operations Director Maj. Mohammad Mahbub told The Associated Press.
He said another 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals.
The death toll could rise as the search for victims was continuing, he said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Bangladesh has some 4,000 garment factories, many without proper safety measures. The country annually earns about $20 billion from exports of garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe.
Mahbub said firefighters recovered 69 bodies from the second floor of the factory alone. He said most of the victims had been trapped inside the factory, located just outside of Dhaka, with no emergency exits leading outside the building.
Many workers who had taken shelter on the roof of the factory were rescued, but firefighters were unable to save those who were trapped inside, Mahbub said.
He said the fire broke out on the ground floor, which is used as a warehouse, and spread quickly to the upper floors.
"The factory had three staircases, and all of them were down through the ground floor," Mahbub said. "So the workers could not come out when the fire engulfed the building."
"Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower," he said.
Army soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed to help police keep the situation under control as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered at the scene, Mahbub said.
He would not say how many people were still missing.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her shock at the loss of a huge number of lives in the blaze and asked authorities to properly conduct rescue operations.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the apex body of the garment sector, said the association would stand by the victims' families.
Bangladesh's garment factories make clothes for brands including Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour and Tesco.