A Girl Named 'Lovely' Demands Change After Factory Fire Kills 112

PHOTO: Bangladeshi fire-men extinguish a fire in the nine-story Tazreen Fashion plant in Savar, north of Dhaka, Nov. 25, 2012.
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[This story was updated Nov. 28, 2012.]

As labor activists push for a major safety overhaul after a garment factory fire that left more than 100 workers dead, the teen survivor of an earlier blaze has launched an on-line petition calling on three major U.S. clothing companies that buy clothes from Bangladesh, including Wal-Mart, to commit to fire safety in their overseas factories.

A girl who calls herself "Lovely" says she was 11 years old in 2006 when a fire swept through the clothing factory where she worked. Lovely and 150 other workers were injured, and more than 60 people died. She said the building where she worked was a "death trap" – and that six years later, conditions at Bangladesh factories haven't changed.

"Every day I wonder," asked Lovely, "Is this the day when there will be another fire and more people will die?"

On Change.org, Lovely, who didn't give her last name, started a petition calling on Wal-Mart, Gap, and H&M, the top three buyers of garments from Bangladesh, to pledge support for "a real fire safety program that will save the lives of the companies' sweatshop workers."

READ the petition.

The International Labor Rights Forum, which connected Lovely with Change.org, also issued a separate joint statement with the Worker Rights Consortium demanding that Wal-Mart compensate the families of those who died in this weekend's fire, and that Wal-Mart join an existing fire and safety program that unions and labor rights groups have created with other foreign companies. PVH, owner of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands, has already signed on to the program, as has German retailer Tchibo.

The calls for reform came as Bangladesh government investigators reached an initial conclusion that the weekend's deadly fire may have been intentionally set.

"We have come to the conclusion that it was an act of sabotage. We are finding out as of now who exactly the saboteurs are and all culprits will be brought to book," said the country's interior minister, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, according to published reports.

One garment industry official, quoted in local media, went so far as to suggest outsiders intentionally set the fire to destabilize the garment industry.

The assertion exposed longstanding deep tensions between government and industry officials on one side, and the thousands of workers who make bare-bones earnings sewing clothes for American and European fashion brands on the other. Anger from the workers appeared mostly to be directed at factory owners. One labor organizer told ABC News that the owners were aligned with government "thugs" whom she said help support the owners' efforts to minimize cost, no matter the risk to workers.

At least 112 workers died in the fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited's nine-story factory on the outskirts of the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, late Saturday night. The death toll may actually be higher, but officials have had difficulty identifying victims because of the intensity of the blaze. One witness described the scene to ABC News in an email. "Everything burned," the witness wrote. "Even the man and woman burned into ashes."

Over the past several days, the names of the American brands that were relying on the Tazreen factory to produce t-shirts, fleece, jeans and other garments has become more clear. Photos taken by workers showed labels for Wal-Mart's private label, Faded Glory, in the burned-out remains along with clothing for a number of other U.S. labels, including a clothing line by music mogul Sean Combs called ENYCE, and clothing by the workwear brand Dickies.

Late Tuesday the Associated Press reported that Disney was also among the brands produced at the factory. For its original report on the factory fire, ABC News was told by a Disney representative that the company's third party supplier assured them none of their orders had been placed at the Tazreen factory.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones in this horrific tragedy," a Disney spokesperson said in response to the AP story. "Our records indicate that none of our licensees have been permitted to manufacture Disney-branded products in this facility for at least the last 12 months. We have been working collaboratively with governments, NGOs and other companies to address the issues associated with manufacturing in Bangladesh and we are committed to continuing these efforts."

The AP also reported clothes made for Sears had been discovered at the factory. A spokesperson for Sears told ABC News Monday that "any merchandise found at that factory should not have been manufactured there, and we are currently investigating further."

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