Minister says collapse not 'serious'

2013-05-03 14:41
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dhaka - Bangladesh's finance minister downplayed the impact of last week's factory-building collapse on his country's garment industry, saying he didn't think it was "really serious" on Friday, hours after the 500th body was pulled from the debris.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith spoke as the government cracked down on those it blamed for the disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar.

It suspended Savar's mayor and arrested an engineer who had called for the building's evacuation last week, but was also accused of helping the owner add three illegal floors to the eight-storey structure. The building owner was arrested earlier.

The government appears to be attempting to fend off accusations that it is in part to blame for the tragedy because of weak oversight of the building's construction.

During a visit to the Indian capital New Delhi, Muhith said the disaster would not harm Bangladesh's garment industry, which is by far the country's biggest source of export income.

"The present difficulties... well, I don't think it is really serious — it's an accident," he said.

"And the steps that we have taken in order to make sure that it doesn't happen, they are quite elaborate and I believe that it will be appreciated by all."

When asked if he was worried that foreign retailers might pull orders from his country, Muhith said he wasn't: "These are individual cases of ... accidents. It happens everywhere."

Deadliest accident

The 24 April collapse is likely the deadliest garment-factory accident in world history.

It surpassed both long-ago disasters such as New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in 1911, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that same year that killed 112.

At the site of the collapse, the official death toll reached 501 on Friday and was expected to climb. Workers carefully used cranes to remove the concrete rubble and continue the slow task of recovering bodies. The official number of missing has been 149 since Wednesday, though unofficial estimates are higher.

"We are still proceeding cautiously so that we get the bodies intact," said Major General Chowdhury Hassan Suhwardy, the commander of the area's army garrison supervising the rescue operation.

A government investigator said on Friday that substandard building materials, combined with the vibration of heavy machines used by the five garment factories inside the Rana Plaza building, led to the horrific collapse.

Substandard building

Mainuddin Khandkar, the head of a government committee investigating the disaster, said substandard rods, cement, bricks and other weak materials were used in the construction of the Rana Plaza building, which was not properly fortified to house the garment factories' equipment.

About 15 minutes before the collapse, the building was hit by a power blackout, so its heavy generators were turned on, shaking the weakened structure, Khandkar said.

"The vibration created by machines and generators operating in the five garment factories contributed first to the cracks and then the collapse," he said, adding that a final report would be soon submitted to the government.

Police official Ohiduzzaman said on Friday that engineer Abdur Razzak Khan was arrested a day earlier on a charge of negligence.

He said Khan worked as a consultant to Rana Plaza owner Mohammed Sohel Rana when the illegal three-floor addition was made to the building.

Rana called Khan to inspect the building after it developed cracks on 23 April, local media reported. That night Khan appeared on a private television station saying that after his inspection he told Rana to evacuate the building because it was not safe.

Khan, a former engineer at Jahangirnagar University near Savar, said he told government engineers the building needed to be examined further.

Police ordered the building evacuated, but witnesses say Rana told people gathered outside the next morning that the building was safe and that garment factory managers told their workers to go inside. It collapsed hours later.


Authorities also suspended the mayor of Savar, Mohammad Refatullah, for alleged negligence, said Abu Alam, a top official of the local government ministry.

Alam said an official investigation has found that the mayor ignored rules in approving the design and layout of the doomed building.

The mayor is from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which has criticised his suspension as politically motivated.

The government also effectively suspended Kabir Hossain Sardar, the top government administrator at Savar, following reports that he declared the building safe after inspecting the cracks a day before the collapse.

Sardar had close links with Rana.

Alam said the government was taking action against everyone involved with Rana and his building.

Rana himself was arrested earlier and is expected to be charged with negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work, crimes punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail.

Authorities have not said if more serious crimes will be added.

The Bangladesh High Court has ordered the government to confiscate Rana's property and freeze the assets of the owners of the factories in Rana Plaza so the money can be used to pay the salaries of their workers.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms.

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.