Toll in Bangladesh building collapse approaches 1,000

Dhaka, May 9 (IANS) The death toll in the collapse of an eight-storey building here in the Bangladesh capital approached 1,000 Thursday, after 55 more bodies were pulled out from the rubble, officials said.

“The confirmed death toll now stands at 921 with the recovery of 55 bodies till 2 p.m. Thursday,” an official in the Dhaka district administration’s control room, set up outside the Rana Plaza building to coordinate the rescue, told Xinhua.

Rescuers have pulled out alive a total of 2,437 people after the building crumbled.

At least 12 people have been arrested, including the owner of the building and owners of the factories.

Apart from a bank branch and hundreds of shops, six floors of the building housed five garment factories — Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms — which make clothing for many major global brands.

The official, who preferred to be unnamed, said rescuers have been continuing their efforts as the stench of decaying bodies still remained strong around the debris of the building that crumbled April 24.

After cracks were detected just a day before the disaster in the building that housed five garment factories, thousands of workers were evacuated.

However, factory officials forced the workers the next morning to continue working.

According to the official, it is not known how many bodies are still trapped in the rubble because the exact number of people inside the building at the time of the collapse has not confirmed.

Many family members are still waiting at the scene of the collapsed building and a school ground where the bodies are being initially kept for identification.

Tawheedul Islam, a police control room official, said 64 bodies that were decomposed well beyond recognition have gone unclaimed and have already been buried.

“Only a handful of bodies with which we get their mobile phones and identification cards are being identified by their relatives,” a rescuer said.

An initial government probe has blamed vibrations from giant generators combined with the vibrations of sewing machinery for the collapse of the building, allegedly constructed without proper permission and with substandard materials.

The five garment factories, according to months-old data of the owners’ association, employed 3,122 workers, mostly women.

But authorities say there were more workers than the figures show.

Thanks to its cheap labour, Bangladesh is now the world’s second largest garments exporter after China, producing global brands for customers around the world.

The $20-billion export sector comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than four million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.

In one of the worst tragedies in Bangladesh’s history late last year, at least 112 workers were killed in a fire that razed the eight-storey Tazreen Fashion Limited, where global brands were manufactured.

Bangladesh’s Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddique has said the government will close down factories deemed dangerous.

The authorities have closed down 18 garment factories, 16 in Dhaka and two in Chittagong, temporarily.

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