DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) — A fire ripped through a clothing factory near the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, killing at least 117 people and sending workers jumping out of the multistory building.
At least 200 people were injured as they rushed to get out of the factory in Ashulia, police said.
Firefighters battled to contain the raging blaze that started Saturday night on the first floor of the nine-story building and spread to other floors, leaving hundreds of workers, mostly women, trapped.
Officials said some 2,000 people were working in the factory as the fire began, but it was unclear how many had been rescued.
The fire department said rescue operations have been very difficult because the factory was packed with fabrics, yarn and cotton, the fire department said. It said the death toll might rise because firefighters could not enter some floors of the building.
Scores of people were anxiously waiting outside the burning factory in search of their relatives.
Bilkis Akhter, mother of teenage factory worker Munni Akhter, said she had checked with the hospitals and police stations but did not find her daughter, who had been working on the fourth floor.
Bangladesh’s ready-made garments make up 80% of the country’s $24 billion in annual exports.
The country has about 4,500 garment factories that make clothes for stores including Tesco, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Kohl’s and Carrefour. The sector earned $19 billion this year as of June.
The state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha recently reported that some 6,000 people die every year in fires in Bangladesh.