Authorities said the boiler exploded due to excessive pressure © PA Images
Authorities said the boiler exploded due to excessive pressure © PA Images

Deadly blast at Bangladeshi factory supplying Aldi

5 July 2017

A boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi garment factory that supplies Aldi has killed at least 13 people and injured dozens.

The blast took place yesterday at a plant operated by Multifabs. Officials are saying the five-tonne boiler was 15 years old.

The business, which started operations in 1992 and generated $70m in exports in 2016, supplies Lindex—the fashion group that is part of Finland’s Stockmann, German supermarket chain Aldi and Rexholm of Denmark.

Ziaul Hoque, deputy chief inspector of the government’s boiler department, said a licence to use the boiler had expired last month.

“The licence expired on June 24—it’s a five-tonne boiler and aged more than 15 years,” he said.

“In our primary investigation, we have found that the explosion occurred due to excessive pressure in the boiler.”

However, Multifabs owner Mahiuddin Faruqui told AFP the company had applied to renew the boiler licence. He said the boiler was in fact six years old and had just been serviced.

“We applied for renewal of the boiler licence on June 19 but all government offices were closed for Eid holidays that week,” he said.

“The boiler was running well—after servicing when workers were trying to restart it, it went off.”

Mesba Faruqui, Multifab factory and operations director, said the factory made 100,000 garments a day, generated around $6m of revenue a month and employed about 6,000 workers. 

Bangladesh’s $28bn garment industry, the biggest in the world after China, employs 4m people and generates around 80% of the country’s export earnings, according to the Bangladeshi Bureau of Statistics.

This disaster comes four years after the collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza factory complex, SM reported in April 2013 in which more than 1,100 people were killed. 

In the wake of the disaster, authorities pledged to improve working conditions at factories in the country, but accidents are still commonplace, according to The Times

Sulav Chowdhury, chief executive of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, of which Multifabs is a member, said the industry had gone through a “huge shift” since the Rana Plaza disaster.

“There has been structural change and we’ve worked hard for it so I’d say this is a stray incident,” he said.

However, the IndustriALL Global Union, a signatory to the Bangladesh Accord, said more work needs to be done to improve building safety across Bangladesh.

“There is still an enormous about to be done to improve safety in the Bangladesh garment industry,” it said.

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