Thirteen workers died in a fire at a suspected illegal garment factory on the outskirts of Delhi early Friday as they slept in the workshop.

"The fire broke out at factory in a residential area of Sahibabad around 4:30 am in the morning. Thirteen people, who were sleeping there have died and another two or three people are getting treated at the hospital," Bhagwat Singh, local police spokesman told AFP.

The factory was allegedly running illegally out of a residential building, and was being used to make fake leather jackets.

Residents rushed to the factory after they heard screams from those trapped inside as the fire quickly spread to the first floor where most of the workers were sleeping, eyewitness Shahabuddin Ali said.

"We started dousing the fire ourselves with buckets and garden pipes,-- The fire department officials reached only two hours after the fire." he says.

Police said that the fire was likely caused either by a short circuit or a cigarette, and that three of the deceased were burnt to death while the others died of smoke inhalation.

Residents and a local fire officer said that two of the workers survived by jumping from the building's balcony.

"The two of them woke up by chance and say they screamed for others to wake up while running towards the terrace but others didn't wake up, perhaps it was already late," local fire officer Abbas Hussain said.

Hussain described piles of leather stacked in the building's narrow staircase and cramped workshop, adding that the factory was most likely illegal.

Police confirmed that the two building owners had been detained.

This is not the first time such an accident has taken place in Delhi.

  • Eight workers were killed last month in a huge explosion at a fireworks factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu while a massive blaze in a firecracker workshop killed 15 people in May 2014 in central Madhya Pradesh.
  • A fire at a factory where leather bags were being stitched killed six workers in November 2013 in New Delhi. Some of the victims were trapped inside the building and burnt beyond recognition.
  • South Asia's lucrative garment industry has a particularly alarming safety record, with watchdogs saying safety rules are routinely flouted.
  • A huge fire triggered by a boiler explosion at a packaging factory just north of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka left 25 people dead in September.
  • In November 2012, at least 111 workers were killed when a devastating fire engulfed a nine-storey garment factory outside Dhaka.
  • The accident was followed by an even bigger disaster six months later when 1,138 people died after a clothing factory complex collapsed, trapping more than 3,000 workers.
Source: PTI

The Rana Plaza tragedy triggered international outrage and put pressure on European and US clothing brands to improve pay and conditions at the factories that supply them.

(Inputs from AFP)

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