Bangladesh fire victims want old jobs back
As 112 of her co-workers died in a garment-factory fire, Dipa Akter got out by jumping from the third floor through a hole made by breaking apart an exhaust fan. Her left leg is wrapped in bandages and she has trouble walking.
Now she wants back in.
"If the factory owner reopens the factory sometime soon, we will work again here," the 19-year-old said.
Factories like the one gutted November 24 are a rare lifeline in this desperately poor country, and now many of the more than 1,200 surviving employees have no work and few prospects.
Akter spent 25 minutes trying to get down the smoke-filled stairs before jumping, which she said was "the only option other than being burned".
Despite her injuries and trauma, she needs the job. Without it, she said, she would either be a housemaid or jobless in her home village.
Akter made about 4,550 takas (NZ$69) a month sewing pants, shirts and nightgowns. Her husband makes about the same at another factory, but she said it is impossible for them to survive just on his salary.
The landlord is demanding rent and she has bills at a grocery shop.
"I am in big trouble because I don't have any savings," Akter said.
With overtime, the 20-year-old earned up to 7,000 takas ($87) a month from Tazreen as a sewing machine operator. She fled the factory unharmed by bolting out as soon as the fire alarm went off, ignoring her supervisors' insistence that she stay at her station.
Ratna Begum, 30, is too injured to go back to work for the foreseeable future and needs compensation soon. She jumped out of a fifth-floor window to escape the flames, thinking, "If I die, my family will at least get my body."
Now she has a bandage on her head and unable to walk without assistance. Without her monthly pay of up to 5,000 takas (NZ$75), she wonders how her family will afford rent, food, her medical bills and school for her two sons.
The factory had no emergency exits. Police were continuing to question three managers suspected of locking in the workers during the fire. Clothes from major global brands including Wal-Mart and Disney were being produced at the factory, though the companies said the plant was considered high-risk and they had ordered subcontractors not to use it in recent months.