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Fire kills nine at Bangladesh garment factory

DHAKA (Reuters) - Nine people were killed on Tuesday evening in a fire at a garment factory in the Bangladeshi town of Gazipur, 40 km 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.

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

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.

Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Mark Heinrich