Rooms full of female workers were cut off as piles of yarn and fabric filling corridors ignited. Reports also suggested fire exits at the site had locks on, which had to be broken in order for staff to escape.
“It was 6.45pm when the fire alarm was raised. I rushed out. I heard that [grills blocking the way to] the second and third floors were locked. When I came down, I saw fire at both the stairways that the ladies used. I still have not found any trace of my sister-in-law,” Alam told the Guardian.
According to Zakir Hossain, another worker, management told their employees not to evacuate immediately.
“The office staff asked us to stay where we were, telling us not to panic. We did not listen to them and started moving out,” Hossain recalled. “A lot of people were stuck there. Some people got out climbing down the bamboo [scaffolding] tied against the building.”
Witnesses said many workers leapt from upper stories in a bid to escape the flames. Twelve workers died in hospital from injuries sustained in falls, officials said, bringing the overall toll to 123 dead and more than 150 injured.