As if the story of the deadly blaze that killed 112 people in a Bangladeshi garment factory couldn't get any worse, new details suggest that somebody locked the workers in the burning building. The scenario is worse than previously though. In fact, it's absolutely horrifying.
According to multiple eyewitness accounts, the fire started on the first floor of a ten-story garment manufacturer due to a short circuit. However, as smoke rose and workers headed to the exit, many found themselves trapped. Authorities initially thought that the problem was simply a lack of emergency exit and neglectful managers telling workers to return to their stations. Now, it looks like they were literally locked in the burning building. "The police and the fire department are confirming that the collapsible gates were locked on each floor," Charles Kernighan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, told ABC News. "The fire department said they had to come in with bolt cutters to cut the locks."
The factory that burned made clothes for a number of American brands, including Walmart, Disney and Sean Combs' label ENYCE. Most of the companies have now condemned the tragedy, pointing to past reports of safety hazards at the factory that weren't addressed. There's also a darker narrative that this was a planned act of arson. "We have come to the conclusion that it was an act of sabotage," Bangladesh's interior minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said on Tuesday. "We are finding out as of now who exactly the saboteurs."
So far, three managers have been arrested under suspicion of blocking workers from leaving the building. "Our production manager ... pulled down the collapsible gate on the third floor, forcing us to continue working," one witness said. "We pleaded with him to let us out, but [he] assured us that nothing was wrong and we should keep working. … He said again, 'Nothing has happened, just keep working.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.