Prominent retailers and clothing suppliers are scrambling to clarify their links to a garment factory in Bangladesh that caught fire over the weekend, killing more than 100 people.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday that the Tazreen Fashion factory in Ashulia, near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for its stores.
But one of its suppliers "subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier," it said, without identifying the company in question.
The clothing factory, housed in a multistory building, caught fire Saturday night. More than 100 people were killed and at least 200 were injured as they rushed to escape, police said.
The toll makes it "the most deadly factory fire in the history of the apparel industry in Bangladesh," according to the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a workers advocacy group.
The range of international companies being linked to the Tazreen facility highlights the complex web of global supply chains in the clothing industry.
Li & Fung, a large trading company that supplies international retailers, said that it had placed orders worth more than $100,000 with the Tazreen factory this year for Kids Headquarters, part of its U.S. subsidiary. But it said it had not made orders for other customers with Tazreen.
Li & Fung, which is based in Hong Kong, said it was very distressed and saddened by the deaths of workers" at the factory. It said it was offering the equivalent of about $1,200 to the family of each victim of the blaze. It also said it was setting up a fund for the education of victims' children.
The big loss of life has provoked anger among workers in Bangladesh's huge garment industry.
Thousands of people from dozens of clothing factories in Ashulia took to the streets Monday to protest the way in which their colleagues died. The protesters blocked traffic and demonstrated for several hours, demanding compensation and a full investigation into what happened.
The Bangladeshi government has ordered such an investigation, asking two committees to file reports within a week. Li & Fung said it would carry out its own investigation.
A period of national mourning was also held Tuesday for those killed at the factory and for the victims from a recent overpass collapse in southeastern Bangladesh.
All apparel factories were to be closed Tuesday, and special prayers offered at mosques, churches and temples.
As well as Wal-Mart and Li & Fung, other big companies were dealing with the fallout from the disaster. The ILRF published a list of companies whose brand logos had been found on clothing and documents at the factory.
They included Dickies, whose owner, Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co., said it had concluded its "production schedule" with Tazreen earlier this year.
Williamson-Dickie aims to "ensure the global vendors and suppliers we work with provide a safe work environment in accordance with all applicable laws and fair labor practices," the company said.
The ILRF also said that the True Desire brand sold at the retailer Sears was among those linked to the factory.
Sears Holdings said that it does not source products from the Tazreen factory and recognizes the critical importance of fire safety.
"Any merchandise found at that factory should NOT have been manufactured there and we are currently investigating further," the company said in a statement.
Even as Bangladesh prepared to mourn the deaths from the weekend fire, firefighters battled a blaze at another apparel factory near Dhaka on Monday.