Between 450 and 600 garment factory workers in Gazipur near Dhaka, Bangladesh, were sent to the hospital on Wednesday after they became sick from suspected water contamination.
Workers at the Starlight Sweater company began to experience stomach cramps and vomiting two hours into their shifts on Wednesday. Once at various local hospitals, they were given fluids and evaluated. Those who were recovering were released on Thursday.
Officials have not confirmed what caused the illness. However, local industrial police officer Mahfuzur Rahman told reporters “Primarily we suspect the water supply of the Starlight Sweaters factory was poisoned or contaminated.” The eight story factory gets its drinking water piped to the roof from an underground reservoir. Tap water comes from a second source and employees are discouraged from drinking it. Factory CEO Muhammad Shafiur Rahman told reporters, “We have cleaned the reservoirs overnight and now the water there is safe for drinking.” The factory reopened on Thursday.
Meanwhile, over 1,000 factory workers and relatives gathered at Rana Plaza in protest of the government’s response to the building collapse that killed over 1,300 people in April. Protesters demanded back pay and/or compensation promised by the government and the parent organization of the factories involved, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters after they allegedly began throwing rocks when told to disperse.