AP Exclusive: Disney, Sears used factory in fire


DHAKA, Bangladesh — Clothing and order books found at a Bangladeshi factory where a fire killed 112 people show that it was making clothing for Disney, Wal-Mart, Sears and other Western brands.

Associated Press reporters looked through clothing and documents connected to the retailers Wednesday while police announced the arrests of three factory officials who are suspected of locking in workers who were killed in Saturday’s fire.

Piles of children’s shorts from Wal-Mart’s Faded Glory brand were found among the charred equipment at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory. Blue and off-white shorts from rap star Sean Combs ENYCE label were piled on the floor and stacked in cartons.

Entries in account books in the abandoned factory showed it took orders in recent months to produce clothes for Disney and Sears, despite the factory’s spotty safety record.

Calls made to The Walt Disney Company and to Sears Holdings were not immediately returned.

Wal-Mart has said the Tazreen factory was making clothes for the retail giant without its knowledge. Wal-Mart, which had received an audit deeming the factory “high risk” last year, said it had decided to stop doing business with Tazreen, but that a supplier subcontracted work to the factory anyway. Wal-Mart said it stopped working with that supplier on Monday.

Workers who survived the fire say exit doors were locked, fire extinguishers didn’t work and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm rang. A fire official has said that far fewer people would have died if there had been just one emergency exit.

Local police chief Habibur Rahman said three factory officials, but not the owner Tazreen Fashions — were arrested and will be questioned about the fire amid reports that many workers trying to escape the blaze had been locked inside. The officials were arrested Wednesday at their homes in Savar, the Dhaka suburb where the factory is also located.

Rahman did not identify the factory officials or give their job status.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Interior Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir have said arson is suspected. Police say they have not ruled out sabotage.

Local TV reports said about 3,000 garment workers held protests over the fire Wednesday, blocking roads and throwing stones at some factories and vehicles. It was the third straight day of demonstrations, and as they did previously, factories in the area closed to avoid violence.

Police used batons to disperse the protesters, but no injuries were immediately reported.

According to local television, most factories in the area closed after opening briefly because of the protests — a common tactic to avoid violence.