A century after the Triangle Factory Fire in Manhattan, and we still cannot protect factory workers from burning to death
“Horrified and helpless, the crowds — I among them — looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies”
That was the scene in Lower Manhattan in 1911. It is still one of the three greatest losses of life through man-made disaster in the history of New York.
146 people were killed. They were locked in their factory on a Saturday afternoon – poor, mainly immigrant, women and girls sewing blouses (known then as Shirtwaists).
This past weekend over 100 women were killed in a similar factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh as a fire broke out and there were no fire escapes available. Over 600 people have died in similar fires in the same area over the past couple of years.
The factory produced garments for Li&Fung – a Hong Kong based “sourcer” for the likes of Wal-Mart and Target. Recent fires also killed people working on supplying garments to Gap and JC Penney.
Here is the Wall Street Journal’s take on the impact of the tragedy
“… analysts said the incident won’t have a significant impact on Li & Fung’s sourcing businesses, though it would likely force retailers and agencies to be extra careful in factory audits, which will add to sourcing costs.”
There you go. That is how far we have progressed as a civilization in 100 years.