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Fire at Bangladesh juice factory kills 52

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2021)

At least 52 people were killed, 20 injured and many more feared trapped after a massive fire raged through a juice-making factory in Bangladesh, officials said on Friday, the latest industrial fire accident in the country.

The fire started on Thursday evening at the ground floor of a six-storey factory building in the Narayanganj district, 20 km (12 miles) southeast of the capital Dhaka, run by the private firm Hashem Food and Beverage, which is a unit of Bangladesh‘s multinational Sajeeb Group. The factory makes mango fruit drinks under the Shezan brand.

“Three people died from jumping off the building to escape the fire and 49 charred bodies have been recovered so far,” Mustain Billah, the administrator for the Narayanganj district, told Reuters by phone from the scene.

“It is still burning on the top floor. Firefighters are struggling to control it, as chemicals and flammable materials were stored inside the building.”

He said that the cause of the fire is not yet known.

“Plastics and flammable substances and chemicals all made it hard to douse the fire,” said Abdullah Al Arefin, a district fire service official, adding the severe heat from the fire caused cracks in the building.

Al Arefin said each floor in the building is about 35,000 square feet (3,250 square meters) but they were only accessible by two stairways and that many workers could not get out as the fire spread to the stairs.

One of the doors leading from the stairs to the roof was locked, he said.

“We rescued 25 people after setting a ladder to the rooftop. We could have saved more if others could reach the rooftop,” said Debashish Bardhan, deputy director of the national fire service.

Many workers were injured in trying to jump off the building’s second and third floors to escape, said Shah Alam, another district fire service official.

Officials at Hashem Foods and Sajeeb Group did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

As relatives of the missing staged protests around the factory site, a mother searching for her son, Nazma Begum, cried out, “There is no justice! Where is my son?”

Narayanganj in central Bangladesh is packed with factories making everything from jute to textiles.

Disasters because of poor fire and building safety standards are common in Bangladesh, largely in the textiles sector that employs millions and contributes the most to its economy.

Industry officials promised better safety standards after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building in 2012 in Dhaka that killed more than 1,000 workers and injured hundreds. But many factories inside and outside the textiles sector still fall short, leading to accidents each year.

The Narayanganj district administration has formed a five-member probe committee to examine the incident, Al Arefin said.

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US commits $150 million in aid for Afghans

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

The United States announced Friday $150 million in new aid for Afghanistan to improve food security and support women and girls in the country.

The US Agency for International Development said an $80 million commitment to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will improve food security and nutrition for Afghans experiencing severe food insecurity, including women, women-headed households, and smallholder farmers and herders.

With this assistance, USAID will help Afghan farmers increase the production of nutritious food using environmentally-sustainable practices, and increase the availability of quality seeds and other agricultural inputs.

This funding will also improve smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate and economic shocks through crop diversification and promoting agricultural best practices, including through support to small-scale food producers, women, family farmers, pastoralists, and fishers.

USAID and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed a $40 million agreement to increase international support for Afghan children, particularly adolescent girls, to realize their right to education.

This is USAID’s newest contribution to Afghanistan’s education sectors and comes after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) March announcement blocking girls above grade six from school. 

With the funding provided by USAID through this agreement, UNICEF will have the resources to provide hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Afghans with desperately needed cash assistance to keep their children in school.

USAID also announced a $30 million commitment to support gender equality and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.

This funding will be programmed through the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

The “Enabling Essential Services for Afghan Women and Girls” activity will increase Afghan women and girls’ access to social protection services; provide resources and support for women-led civil society organizations working to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan; and increase women’s economic empowerment through skills and business development training and entrepreneurship support, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement.

The funding will provide direct support for Afghan women’s civil society organizations.

“As women and girls face rising rates of gender-based violence in Afghanistan, this funding for UN Women will also provide women and girl survivors of violence with access to free and safe accommodation, legal aid and healthcare, psycho-social support, counseling, and vocational training,” USAID statement said.

The funding will also help UN Women respond to the urgent and immediate livelihoods needs of Afghan women, and help them build income security through private sector partnerships that will create job opportunities and help Afghan women launch or rebuild their micro, small or medium businesses.

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Mysterious fires destroy dozens of homes in Jowzjan

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

More than 50 homes have been destroyed by mysterious fires in a village in Afghanistan’s northern Jowzjan province, officials said this week.

The fires have happened in Bala Mardian village of Faizabad district.

Sirajuddin Ahmadi, police chief of Jowzjan, said that the fires are increasing day by day.

“Yesterday 12 homes caught fire. Today people held Khatm Qur’an ceremony (reading Qur’an) and prayed. Within an hour today, three or four homes caught fire. I hope officials and leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will pay special attention to the victims,” Ahmadi said.

There are no reports of deaths caused by the fires.

Noorullah Musafir, the provincial director of labor and social affairs, however, said that some people including women and children were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, local residents said that mysterious creatures could be seen during the fires.

“People are suffering from the problem. They initially thought that it was human, but later it was found that only children and women can see it. A creature is seen in the home, but when we enter the home, no one is there,” a Jowzjan resident said.

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DAB says technical agreements in place to print new bank notes

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

The country’s central bank – Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) said Thursday they have reached agreements with a number of foreign countries and money printing facilities to print new bank notes for the country.

“We have collected and burned the old money, we have reached an agreement with the money printing offices and countries and we expect to proceed according to the plan and present you with the results, we are proceeding based on national interests; discussions have been held with countries and banks and they will help Afghanistan,” said Lutful Haq Noor Pasarlay, DAB’s policy deputy head.

Abdulqahar known as Haji Muhammad Edris, the acting head of De Afghanistan Bank, also spoke at the event and mapped out achievements made by the central bank in the past 12 months.

“Maintaining the stability of the value of the Afghani currency, maintaining the sustainability of commercial banks, providing banking services, facilitating cross-border transfers and developing new systems were some of the issues in the attention of Da Afghanistan Bank during the last year,” said Abdulqahar.

According to officials, in order to improve the banking sector and prevent criminal activities, the law to prevent terrorism financing, the regulation of preventive measures against money laundering, the management plan for the liquidity problem of the banking sector, the plan to revive the financial and banking sector, and the crisis management policy, have been drawn up and will soon be adopted.

The officials also said that in order to release Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves, several internal and external meetings have been organized with the relevant parties and discussions have been held on technical matters.

The last meeting of technical representatives of Afghanistan and the United States, for releasing Afghanistan’s frozen assets, was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

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