A massive blaze tore through a Bangladesh factory killing at least 52 people trapped by flames that forced workers to leap for their lives from upper floors, emergency services said on Friday.
About 30 people were injured in the fire, and hundreds of distraught relatives and other workers waited anxiously outside the food factory as it continued to rage.
The country has pledged reforms since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 when a nine-storey complex collapsed killing more than 1,100 people. But critics say safety standards are still lax.
The latest fire broke out at Hashem Food and Beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town outside Dhaka, on Thursday afternoon and was still raging almost 24 hours later.
Normally there were would be more than 1,000 workers in the building but many had left for the day when the fire started.
Fire service spokesman Debashish Bardhan said: “The workers could not go to the rooftop because the exit door to the staircase was padlocked. They could not go down because the lower floors were already engulfed by fire.”
Police dispersed hundreds of people who blocked nearby roads, while some clashed with officers.
Emergency services were battling to put out the fire on the fifth and sixth floors. Firefighters using ropes rescued 25 people from the roof of the factory that made noodles, fruit juices and candy.
Dhaka fire chief Dinu Moni Sharma Sharma said the blaze took off because highly flammable chemicals and plastics had been stockpiled inside.
“On the third floor, gates on both stairwells were closed. Other colleagues are saying there were 48 people inside. I don’t know what happened to them,” he said.
He told how they had been brought down on ropes.
As clouds of black smoke billowed from the building, many of the waiting relatives said they feared the worst.
Nazrul Islam said: “We came here because my niece was not answering our phone calls for a while. And now the phone is not ringing at all. We are worried.”