The fire broke out on the ground floor, where a factory worker named Nasima said stacks of yarn and clothes blocked part of the stairway. Nasima, who uses only one name, and other workers said that when they tried to flee, managers told them to go back to their work stations.
‘‘Everyone was screaming for help,’’ Nasima said. ‘‘Total chaos, panic and screaming. Everyone was trying to escape and come out. I was pulling the shirt of a man. I fainted and when I woke up I found myself lying on the road outside the factory. I don’t know how I survived.’’
Workers expressed support for the factory owner, Delwar Hossain. Mohammad Rajib said he is ‘‘a gentle man’’ who heeded workers when they protested for more pay and against rough treatment by some managers.
‘‘He took action and fired some of them,’’ he said. ‘‘He did not sack any worker. He told us: ‘You are my people. If you survive, I will survive.'’’
Associated Press writers Farid Hossain in Dhaka and Mae Anderson and Anne D'Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.