Bangladesh factory death toll passes 800
The death toll from Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster passed 800 on Wednesday as rescuers pulled dozens more bodies from the rubble of a nine-storey building that collapsed outside Dhaka last month.
“The death toll now stands at 803” with 790 bodies recovered from the wreckage and 13 victims who died in hospital, said Lieutenant Mir Rabbi, an official in the army control room set up to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
More than 3,000 garment workers were on shift when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed as they were turning out clothing for Western retailers such as Britain’s Primark and the Spanish label Mango.
Officials overseeing the disaster operation said a total of 2,437 people were rescued from the ruins of the building, which housed a total of five garment factories in the town of Savar, a suburb of the capital Dhaka.
Cranes and bulldozers kept clearing debris as relief workers drawn from the army and fire service wore masks to ward off the smell of decomposing bodies.
Brigadier General Siddiqul Alam Sikder said the stench of bodies trapped in the lower floors and under beams indicated the death toll would rise.
“We’re expecting to find some bodies because we still haven’t reached the bottom. We’ve finished around 70 per cent of the job,” he said.
Efforts to identify bodies were being hampered by their decomposition of bodies, officials added.
Many bodies were found in the staircases.
Panicked garment workers had raced to stairwells in a rush to get out of the building after hearing a loud noise but the compound collapsed within five minutes, trapping them.
“We got around 150 bodies from the stairs,” Sidker said.
Preliminary findings of a government probe have blamed vibrations from four giant generators on the compound’s upper floors for triggering the collapse.
The building’s architect, Masood Reza, said he designed the structure to house a shopping mall and offices, not the hefty weight of factory machinery and large workforces.
Police have arrested 12 people including the plaza’s owner and four garment factory owners for forcing people to work on the day of the tragedy even though cracks had appeared in the structure the previous day.
Fearful that Western brand names could turn their backs on Bangladesh in the face of worries over factory safety, the government announced a new high-level panel on Monday to inspect thousands of garment plants for building flaws.
The collapse was the latest in a string of deadly accidents to hit the textile industry. A factory fire last November killed 111 garment workers.