Thursday, November 29

History repeats itself

Clementine and I were both saddened this week to hear about the deadly fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We both immediately thought of the deadly Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City and the second deadliest disaster in New York City until the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The 2012 Dhaka fire broke out on Nov. 24, 2012, in the Tazreen Fashion factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. At least 117 people were confirmed dead in the fire, and at least 200 were injured, making it the deadliest factory fire in the nation's history.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged 16 to 23; the oldest victim was 48, the youngest were two 14-year-old girls.

The 2012 Dhaka fire, presumably caused by an electrical short circuit, started on the ground floor of the nine-story factory, trapping the workers. Because of the large amount of fabrics and yarn in the factory, the fire quickly spread to other floors, complicating firefighting operations. The fire burned for more than seventeen hours before firefighters succeeded in extinguishing it.

Because the Triangle Shirt Waist managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the upper floors to the streets below.

Most victims of the 2012 Dhaka fire were found on the second floor, where at least 69 bodies were recovered. Witnesses reported that many workers had been unable to escape through the narrow exits. Twelve of the victims died leaping from windows to escape the flames, some of them dying of their injuries after being taken to area hospitals. Other workers who had escaped to the roof of the building were successfully rescued. The fire department's operations manager stated that the factory lacked emergency exits that led out of the building. Of the building's three staircases, all three led through the ground floor, making them unusable in the fire.

Will we never learn?

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