Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Besieged UN peacekeepers battle Islamists in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • Ukrainian plane with seven on board crashes in Algeria

    Read more

  • Kerry calls for 'coalition of nations' to battle IS militants

    Read more

  • EU leaders meet in Brussels to seek a response to Russia

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns Russia of more sanctions

    Read more

  • Lesotho army seizes police HQ, jams radio stations

    Read more

  • IMF backs Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' against IS militants in Syria

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

Asia-pacific

Death toll in Bangladesh building collapse tops 1,000

© AFP

Video by Halla Mohieddeen

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-05-10

The death toll from the collapse of a building housing textile factories outside the Bangladesh capital rose above 1,000 on Friday, as dead bodies continued to be pulled from the rubble, officials said.

The death toll from a garment factory building that collapsed more than two weeks ago outside the Bangladeshi capital soared past 1,000 on Friday, while the list of the dead from a fresh fire at a sweater manufacturer showed the entanglement of the industry and top Bangladeshi officials.

Officials said 1,034 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of the fallen factory building as of Friday morning. There was no sign of where the toll might finally settle as more bodies were being found, but it is already the world’s deadliest garment industry disaster and one of the worst industrial accidents.

The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe.

Unlike the collapse at the Rana Plaza building, which was blamed on shoddy construction and disregard for safety regulations, the fire at the Tung Hai Sweater factory appeared to have conformed to building codes. A top fire official said the deaths in Wednesday night’s fire - including a senior police officer, a Bangladeshi politician and a top clothing industry official - were caused by panic and bad luck.

“They are really unfortunate,” Mamun Mahmud, deputy director of the fire service, said Thursday.

The fire engulfed the lower floors of the 11-story factory, which had closed for the day. The smoldering acrylic products produced immense amounts of smoke and poison gas and the victims suffocated as they ran down the stairs, Mahmud said.

The building appeared on first inspection to have been properly built, though fire inspectors would conduct further checks, he said. It had two stairwells in the front and an emergency exit in the back, he said. Those inside probably panicked when they saw smoke and ran into one of the front stairwells, he said. Had they used the emergency stairwell, they would have survived, he said.

“Apparently they tried to flee the building through the stairwell in fear that the fire had engulfed the whole building,” he said.

They also would have likely survived the slow-spreading fire had they stayed on the upper floors, he said.

“We found the roof open, but we did not find there anybody after the fire broke out. We recovered all of them on the stairwell on the ninth floor,” he said.

The dead included the factory’s managing director, Mahbubur Rahman, who was also on the board of directors of the powerful Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. Along with him was senior police official Z.A. Morshed and Sohel Mostafa Swapan, head of a local branch of the ruling party’s youth league.

Independent TV, a local station, reported that Rahman had plans to contest next year’s parliamentary elections as a candidate for the ruling party and had been meeting friends to discuss his future when the fire broke out.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which began soon after the factory workers went home for the day and took three hours to bring under control. Mahmud speculated it might have originated in the factory’s ironing section. Officials originally said the building also housed several floors of apartments, but later said it was just a factory.

The Facebook page of the Tung Hai Group claimed it was a sprawling enterprise with a total of 7,000 employees at its two factories and the capacity to produce well over 6 million sweaters, shirts, pants and pajamas every month. The group claimed it did business with major retailers in Europe and North America.

The country’s powerful garment industry has been plagued by a series of disasters in recent months, including a November fire at the Tazreen factory that killed 112 and the building collapse.

More than two weeks after the building in the suburb of Savar collapsed, workers with cranes and other heavy equipment were still pulling apart the rubble and finding more bodies. On Friday, authorities said the death toll had risen to 1,034 and it was unclear how many more people remained missing. More than 2,500 people were rescued alive after the April 24 accident.

Maj. Ohiduzzaman, an army official who uses only one name, said 100 decomposing bodies have been kept at a makeshift morgue at a school and were to be sent to hospitals in Dhaka for DNA testing to identify them.

A total of 648 bodies have so far been handed over to the families, he said. Some of those who authorities have been unable to identify have been buried by the government.

Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said in an article published in Bangladeshi newspapers Thursday that the tragedy was a “symbol of our failure as a nation.”

“The crack in Rana Plaza that caused the collapse of the building has only shown us that if we don’t face up to the cracks in our state systems, we as a nation will get lost in the debris of the collapse,” he said, urging the government and citizens to work together for reforms.

He also urged global brands not to abandon the country, saying that the workers in the factories _ which often subcontract from the well-known brands _ should be seen as de facto employees of those companies.

The European Union’s delegation to Bangladesh urged the government Wednesday to “act immediately” to improve working conditions in the country’s garment industry.

Abdul Latif Siddiqui, head of special Cabinet committee to inspect garment factories that was formed days after the Rana Plaza collapse, said the government has closed 18 garment factories in recent days for failing to meet work and safety standards. He did not say whether the closures were temporary or permanent.

Officials say the owner of Rana Plaza illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though the structure was not designed to support such equipment.

The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained.

(AP)

Date created : 2013-05-10

  • BANGLADESH

    Thousands join May Day protests against Bangladesh factory owners

    Read more

  • BANGLADESH

    Primark to compensate Bangladesh factory victims

    Read more

  • BANGLADESH

    Fire breaks out at collapsed building in Bangladesh

    Read more

COMMENT(S)