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Published November 26 2012

Wal-Mart says it tried to cut ties to garment factory in Bangladesh before blaze killed 112

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The garment factory in Bangladesh where a weekend fire killed at least 112 people had been making clothes for Wal-Mart without the giant U.S. retailer's knowledge, Wal-Mart said Monday.

In a statement, Wal-Mart said that the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for Wal-Mart, but that a supplier subcontracted work to it “in direct violation of our policies.”

“Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier,” America's biggest retailer said. “The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

The blaze on Saturday was one of the deadliest fires of its kind in Bangladesh and threw a spotlight on the way the country's garment factories often ignore safety in the rush to supply major retailers in the U.S. and Europe. More than 200 people have died over the past six years in garment factory fires in Bangladesh, including a blaze that killed 63 in 2006.

Survivors of the latest tragedy said that an exit door was locked, that fire extinguishers didn't work and apparently were there just to impress inspectors, and that when the fire alarm went off, workers were told by their bosses to go back to their sewing machines. Victims were trapped or jumped to their deaths from the eight-story building, which had no emergency exits.