Bangladesh garment factory fire kills as many as 10

Bangladeshi firefighters extinguish a garment factory blaze in Dhaka on September 15, 2013. No casualties were reported. Bangladesh, the world's second biggest apparel exporter with its garment factories accounting for 80 percent of its overseas shipments, has been hit by a series of disasters highlighting safety conditions at many factories.

DHAKA — As many as 10 people are dead after a fire at a garment factory on Tuesday evening in the Bangladeshi town of Gazipur, 25 miles north of the capital Dhaka, emergency officials said.

A series of deadly incidents at Bangladeshi factories, including a building collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 people, has raised global concern over shaky safety standards in the South Asian country's booming, $20 billion garment industry.

Gazipur's firefighting chief, Abu Zafar Ahmed, said nine employees including three company managers had died in the blaze that originated in the knitting section of Aswad Composite Mills factory, a sister concern of Paul Mall Group.

The Associated Press reported the death toll at 10, while other news services reported a lower number. There was no indication for the discrepancy.

"It's a massive fire. Ten fire brigade teams are working to put it out," local police chief Amir Hossain told Agence France-Presse.

The fire chief said only four were confirmed dead, AFP said.

"We could not control the fire. It has been raging for more than six hours," M. Akteruzzaman said. "There is an acute shortage of water in the area, which makes the job to control the fire very difficult."

Another official said the nearest fire station is an hour's drive away.

About 50 workers were injured in the fire, whose cause had yet to be determined. 

It was fortunate the fire started after most workers were gone for the day. The factory houses an estimated 3,000 workers, the AP said.

The collapse of the building housing garment factories near Dhaka in April was the world's deadliest industrial accident since the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India.

Garments are a vital sector for Bangladesh and its low wages and duty-free access to Western markets have helped make it the world's second-largest apparel exporter after China.

The recent string of accidents has put the government, industrialists and the global brands that use the factories under pressure to reform an industry that employs four million and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh's export earnings.