Fires and building collapses are relatively frequent in Bangladesh, a poor South Asian country, especially in its large textile industry.
At least 52 people were killed and around 30 injured in the continuing fire at a Bangladesh food and beverage factory on Friday , where some workers had to jump out of windows to escape the flames.
The total number of employees in the six-story building in Rupganj, an industrial city near the capital Dhaka in Bangladesh, is not yet known. There are usually more than a thousand but many managed to flee when the disaster began.
On a road near the factory, where the fire was still uncontrolled 24 hours after it started, there were clashes between hundreds of relatives of the employees, protesting the slowness of rescue operations, and the security forces.
"They threw stones at the police and the police fired tear gas to disperse them," the head of the local administration, Mustain Billah, told AFP.
Fires and building collapses are relatively frequent in Bangladesh, a poor South Asian country, especially in its large textile industry, due to non-compliance with safety regulations. The reforms promised by the government in this area are slow to materialize.
Police and witnesses said the fire started around 5:00 p.m. (11:00 a.m. GMT) on Thursday at Hashem Food and Beverage, which makes sweets, noodles and fruit juices, among other products.
The initial death toll was three, and then 49 lifeless bodies were discovered on the third floor.
"The workers [who were] there couldn't get to the roof because the stair accesses were closed. And they couldn't get down because the lower floors were engulfed in flames," said Debashish Bardhan, a fire department spokesman .
The charred bodies were taken to morgues by ambulances, while people in the nearby streets looked on in horror and screamed.
At least 30 people were injured and some jumped from upper-story windows as the fire spread rapidly, said police inspector Sheikh Kabirul Islam.
Firefighters rescued 25 people from the roof of the building in Bangladesh.
"When the fire is contained we will begin the search for survivors inside the building," said the spokesman for the firefighters.
Dinu Moni Sharma, the head of the Dhaka fire brigade, said the fire spread rapidly due to the presence of highly flammable chemicals and plastics in the factory.
Unions in anger
Mamun, a worker, said he and 13 other people ran to the roof when the fire started on the ground floor, flooding the entire building with thick black smoke.
"The firefighters lowered us using a rope," he explained.
Many families feared the worst, the firefighters said.
"We came here because my niece was not answering our calls. And now her phone doesn't even give a signal. We are worried," Nazrul Islam said.
Union officials blamed the authorities for the insufficient application of security measures.
"The government has not made the slightest improvement in job safety in thousands of factories, resulting in the avoidable death of many workers," said Kalpon Alter, one of them.
At least 70 people died in February 2019 in a huge fire that swept through several apartment buildings in Dhaka, where chemicals were illegally stored.
And in April 2013, the Rana Plaza tailoring shop collapsed like a house of cards, killing at least 1,138 workers, a tragedy that caused a global commotion.