People pushing and shoving at the Wal-Mart and shooting each other over parking spaces were not the real outrage of this year's epic Black Friday, now known as Black Thursday/Friday. This is a horrific tragedy:
DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Fire raced through a garment factory that supplies major retailers in the West, killing at least 112 people, many of whom were trapped by the flames because the eight-story building lacked emergency exits, an official said Sunday.
The blaze broke out late Saturday at a factory operated just outside Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which makes products for Wal-Mart and other companies in the U.S. and Europe.
Firefighters recovered at least 100 bodies from the factory, Maj. Mohammad Mahbub, fire department operations director, told The Associated Press. He said 12 other people who were injured after they jumped from the building to escape died at hospitals.
Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed.
Accidents happen -- but this one didn't have to. Too many factories in Bangladesh are firetraps prone to the kind of electrical blaze that erupted this weekend, and too many lack basic fire escapes, which was apparently also the case here:
In addition to finding evidence that the factory produced Walmart’s Faded Glory brand, researchers found over a dozen other brand logos on clothing and documents in the factory, including Ace, C&A, Dickies, Fashion Basics, Sean Combs Co.'s Enyce brand, Edinburgh Woollen Mill's brands P.G. field and Country Rose, Hippo, Infinity Woman, Karl Rieker GMBH & Co., Kebo Raw, Kik, Piaza Italia, Soffe, and True Desire.
For several years, the International Labor Rights Forum has been tracking and responding to factory fires in Bangladesh’s garment industry. This is the most deadly factory fire in the history of the apparel industry in Bangladesh, which is the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China. Export data has indicated that Walmart is the second largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh, after H&M.
It should be noted that a) no one is going to put the genie of globaloization back in the bottle, not on the eve of 2012 and b) at least a safe factory (and fair wages) can lift citizens of one of the nation's poorest countries out of poverty. But it's also possible to make to make garments in Bangladesh in a factory that's not going to kill its workers. Ironically, Wal-Mart is confirming that it had flagged this plant as one of significant concern, and at the most recent inspection in August 2011 vowed it would be back within a year. It's not clear whether that happened.
Kinda late for that now.