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Sunday, 26 November, 2000, 13:58 GMT
Bangladesh fire toll rises
Guard at the Shibpur town factory
A security guard walks through the burned rubble
At least 45 people, most of them women, are now known to have died in a fire that swept through a garment factory in Bangladesh.

More than 500 workers are believed to have been in the factory in Narshingdi, 50km (31 miles) north east of the capital Dhaka, when the fire broke out.

Mourning relatives at Narsingdi hospital
Mourning relatives gathered at a nearby hospital
Rescue workers are still searching the ruins of the building for bodies.

Officials say a stampede appeared to have occurred, and most of the victims died trying to escape the flames.

Many severely injured people are being treated in nearby hospitals.

There are reports that rescue workers arriving at the scene found the factory gates locked shut from the outside.

Local officials said an inquiry team would investigate whether the security arrangements, aparently designed to prevent theft and to protect the mainly female workforce, had contributed to the death toll.

Fire spread quickly

Witnesses said hundreds of workers scrambled to safety through the factory's one emergency exit, while others jumped from the roof.

The fire started on the third floor of the four storey building and quickly spread to other floors.

The cause of the blaze is not known, but police say it may have been started by an electrical short circuit.

The factory produced T-shirts for export to the US and European markets. Bangladesh's clothing industry employs more than two million people and earns valuable revenue for the country.

But working conditions are often harsh, and a BBC correspondent in Dhaka says safety records are poor.

Over the past 10 years, more than 200 workers have died in fire-related accidents, including 12 women in a similar fire in Dhaka last August.

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