Water poisons hundreds of Bangladeshi factory workers

Featured South East Asia - June 6th, 2013

Hundreds of workers at a garment factory near the Bangladeshi capital have fallen ill after drinking contaminated water in their workplace, officials said.

Up to 600 employees at the Starlight Sweaters factory suffered poisoning after drinking from the water supply of the plant in Gazipur, a suburb of Dhaka.

Many of the textile workers were taken to different hospitals after complaints of stomach cramps and vomiting, factory spokesman Based Ali said.

Local police officer Mahfuzur Rahman told AFP the water supply was possibly “poisoned” with pesticides.

An official from Bangladesh’s Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), which represents the country’s 4,500 garment plants, said the contamination could have been deliberate.

“This is an A-grade factory. It has its own water supply which comes from a deep tube well, so there is no scope for contamination. Someone might have mixed poison to the water,” S M Mannan, vice president of the BGMEA, told AFP.

Most of the sick workers were out of danger late Wednesday, hospital officials said.

The Bangladeshi factory was making garments for big-name Western labels, according to authorities, but did not immediately identify the brands.

The incident comes amid renewed scrutiny on the country’s garment industry in the wake of the tragic building collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka which killed more than 1,120 people.