Bangladesh building collapse toll 300+

2013-04-26 14:00
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Bangladesh rescue continues

See the latest pictures of rescue efforts continuing as scores are still feared missing in the rubble of an eight-storey building, which collapsed near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

Savar — More than two days after their factory collapsed on them, at least some garment workers were still alive in the corpse-littered debris on Friday, pinned beneath tons of mangled metal and concrete. Rescue crews struggled to save them, knowing they probably had just a few hours left to live, as desperate relatives clashed with police in their anger and grief.

Amid the chaos, the cries for help and the smell of decaying bodies at the eight-storey building where more than 300 died, what happened to 18-year-old Mussamat Anna passes as luck. Rescue workers cut off the garment worker's mangled right hand to pull her free from the debris on Thursday night.

"First a machine fell over my hand and I was crushed under the debris. ... Then the roof collapsed over me," she told an Associated Press cameraman from a hospital bed on Friday.

The death toll topped 300 on Friday and it remained unclear what the final grim number would be. Military spokesperson Shahin Islam told reporters that 304 bodies had been recovered.

Brigadier General Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, who is overseeing rescue operations, said 2 200 people have been rescued. The garment manufacturers' group said the factories in the building employed 3 122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside it when it collapsed on Wednesday in Savar, a suburb of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

An army rescue worker, Major Abdul Latif, said on Friday that he found one survivor still trapped under concrete slabs, surrounded by several bodies. At another place in the building, four survivors were found pinned under the debris, a fire official said. An Associated Press cameraman who accompanied a rescue crew heard two men's anguished cries for help; it was unknown on Friday whether they were still alive.

Search and rescue to continue

Rescue workers said they were proceeding very cautiously inside the crumbling building, using their hands, hammers and shovels, to avoid more injuries and collapses. But they said the trapped workers were so badly hurt and weakened that they would need to be extricated within a few hours if they are to survive.

A military official, Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, told reporters that search and rescue operations would continue until at least Saturday.

"We know a human being can survive for up to 72 hours in this situation. So our efforts will continue non-stop," he said.

Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble, spent a third day working amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers' relatives gathered outside the building, which housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies.

Police cordoned off the building site, pushing back thousands of bystanders and relatives, after rescue workers said the crowds were hampering their work.

Clashes later erupted between relatives of those still trapped and police officers, who used batons to disperse the mobs. Police said 50 people were injured in the clashes.


"We want to go inside the building and find our people now. They will die if we don't find them soon," said Shahinur Rahman, whose mother is missing.

Elsewhere, many thousands of workers from the hundreds of garment factories across the Savar industrial zone and other nearby industrial areas took to the streets to protest the collapse and poor safety standards.

Local news reports said protesters had smashed dozens of vehicles at one strike on Friday. Most of the other protests were largely peaceful.

Dozens of people have been rescued from the wreckage well after Wednesday morning's collapse.

Forty people had been trapped on the fourth floor of the Rana Plaza building until rescuers reached them on Thursday evening. Twelve were soon freed, and crews worked to get the others out safely, said Brigadier General Shikder. Crowds at the scene burst into applause as survivors were brought out.

Police say cracks in the building had led them to order an evacuation on Tuesday, but the factories ignored the order and were operating when it collapsed on Wednesday. Video shot before the collapse shows cracks in the walls, with apparent attempts at repair. It also shows columns missing chunks of concrete and police talking to building operators.

Owner identified

Officials said soon after the collapse that numerous construction regulations had been violated.

Abdul Halim, an official with Savar's engineering department, said the owner of Rana Plaza was originally allowed to construct a five-storey building but added another three stories illegally.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir has said the building violated construction codes and that "the culprits would be punished". Local police chief Mohammed Asaduzzaman said police and the government's Capital Development Authority have filed separate cases of negligence against the building's owner.

Habibur Rahman, police superintendent of the Dhaka district, identified the owner of the collapsed building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front. Rahman said police were also looking for the owners of the garment factories.

The disaster is the worst ever for Bangladesh's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve the country's worker-safety standards.

Instead, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where wages, among the lowest in the world, have made it a magnet for numerous global brands.

Bangladesh's garment industry was the third-largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy. It has grown rapidly in the past decade, a boom fuelled by Bangladesh's exceptionally low labour costs. The country's minimum wage is now the equivalent of about $38 a month.

Call for improved conditions

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year.

The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers.

Britain's Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza, but many other retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them.

Wal-Mart said none of its clothing had been authorised to be made in the facility, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorised production.

US State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said the collapse underscored the "urgent need" for the Bangladesh government, as well as the factory owners, buyers and labour groups, to improve working conditions in the country.

Human Rights Watch says Bangladesh's Ministry of Labour has only 18 inspectors to monitor thousands of garment factories in the sprawling Dhaka district, where much of the nation's garment industry is located.

John Sifton, the group's Asia advocacy director, also noted none of the factories in the Rana Plaza were unionised, and had they had been, workers would have been in a better position to refuse to enter the building on Wednesday.

Read more on:    bangladesh  |  bangladesh building collapse

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.