Saturday, May 4, 2013

Death Toll in Bangladesh Building Collapse Expected to Reach More Than 580

High temperatures outside the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka has hampered the grim recovery work in a building collapse that took place on April 24th and is now thought to have claimed nearly 600 lives.

The official death toll from the collapse reached 580 on Sunday, up from 547 a day earlier. It is expected to rise. The disaster is likely the worst garment-factory accident ever, and there have been few industrial accidents of any kind with a higher death toll.

Five garment factories operated in the Rana Plaza building that collapsed, and many brand labels have been found in the wreckage, but only two retailers, Britain's Primark and Canada's Loblaw Inc., have acknowledged that their clothes were being made there at the time.

Government officials say substandard building materials, combined with the vibration of the heavy machines used by the five factories, led to the collapse.

The building developed cracks a day before the collapse and the owner Mohammed Sohel Rana called engineer Abdur Razzak Khan to inspect it. Khan appeared on television that night and said he told Rana the building should be evacuated.

Police also issued an evacuation order, but witnesses say that hours before the collapse, Rana told people that the building was safe and garment factory managers told their workers to go inside.

Rana has been arrested 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.

Khan was arrested as well. Police said he worked as a consultant to Rana when three illegal floors were added to what was supposed to be a five-story building.
The building housed garment workshops for at least two dozen international retailers. permit for the collapsed building allowed for five stories, but owner Mohammed Sohel Rana decided to expand vertically and have three additional stories illegally added on to the building. Rana was arrested earlier this week as the tried to flee to India.

The collapse comes months after a deadly fire swept through another garment factory, killing 7 workers. Government officials were investigating claims from workers that emergency exits were blocked at the time of the blaze.

The garment industry accounts for about 80% of Bangladeshi exports and is worth an estimated $20 billion annually for the impoverished nation.

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