News / Asia

Dozens Rescued, Bangladesh Building Toll Soars Towards 300

Rescue workers look for trapped garment workers at the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka, Apr. 26, 2013.
Rescue workers look for trapped garment workers at the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka, Apr. 26, 2013.
Reuters
Rescuers pulled dozens of survivors from the rubble of Bangladesh's worst industrial accident on Friday, but the death toll rose towards 300 after the collapse of building housing factories that made low-cost garments for Western brands.
 
Almost miraculously, 62 people trapped beneath the rubble since the eight-story building collapsed on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday were rescued alive overnight, police and government officials said.
 
However, there were fears between 300 and 400 people were still inside. “Some people are still alive under the rubble and we are hoping to rescue them,” deputy fire services director Mizanur Rahman said.
 
Junior local government minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak said the death toll had reached 292 and H. T. Imam, an adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said it could top 350.
 
Anger over the working conditions of Bangladesh's 3.6 million garment workers, the overwhelming majority of them women, has grown steadily since the disaster, with thousands taking to the streets to protest on Friday.
 
Nanak said 41 people were pulled alive from one room on the fourth floor overnight, almost 40 hours after the Rana Plaza building collapsed with more than 3,000 people inside.
 
Around 2,300 people have been rescued so far, at least half of them injured, from the remains of the building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from Dhaka.
 
An industry official has said 3,122 people, mainly female garment workers, had been inside the building despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.
 
Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of garments in the world but many factories remained closed for a second day on Friday, with angry garment workers protesting against poor conditions and demanding the owners of the building and the factories it housed face harsh punishment.
 
Police and witnesses said protesters set fire to a number of vehicles and damaged other garment factories.
 
Dhaka District police chief Habibur Rahman identified the owner of the Rana Plaza building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a leader of the ruling Awami League's youth front.
 
Imam, the prime minister's adviser, said Rana had “vanished into thin air”.
 
“People are asking for his head, which is quite natural. This time we are not going to spare anybody,” Imam said.
 
String of fatal incidents
 
Wednesday's building collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka killed 112 people.
 
Such incidents have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages in Bangladesh and could taint the poor South Asian country's reputation as a producer of low-cost products and services.
 
North American and European chains, including British retailer Primark and Canada's Loblaw, said they were supplied by factories in the Rana Plaza building.
 
Mohammad Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the proprietors of the five factories inside the building had ignored the association's warning not to open on Wednesday after cracks had been seen in the building the day before.
 
“We asked not to open the factories and told them we will send our engineer, and until you get the green signal don't open the factories,” Islam told Reuters.
 
“But unfortunately they violated our instructions,” he said.
 
 A bank in the building did close on Wednesday after the warning.
 
Prayers, Mourning
 
Savar residents and rescuers dropped bottled water and food on Thursday night to people who called out from between floors. Nearby, relatives identified their dead among dozens of corpses wrapped in cloth on the veranda of a school.
 
Special prayers were offered for the dead, injured and missing at mosques, temples and pagodas across Bangladesh on Friday.
 
Ten labor groups called for a strike on Sunday by workers at garment factories across the country.
 
Sixty percent of Bangladesh's garment exports go to Europe. The United States takes 23 percent and Canada takes 5 percent.
 
Primark, a unit of Associated British Foods, has confirmed one of its suppliers occupied the second floor of the building. Danish retailer PWT Group, which owns the Texman brand, said it had been using a factory there for seven years.
 
Canada's Loblaw, a unit of food processing and distribution firm George Weston Ltd, said one factory made a small number of items for its “Joe Fresh” label.
 
Primark, Loblaw and PWT operate under codes of conduct aimed at ensuring products are made in good working conditions.
 
Documents including order sheets and cutting plans obtained by Reuters appeared to show that other major brands such as Benetton had used suppliers in the building in the past year.

A Benetton spokesman said none of the factories were suppliers to the company. Spain's Mango said it had an unfulfilled sample order at the plaza with Phantom Apparel.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Remain Engaged in Afghan Peace Talks

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Daniel Feldman recently met with Pakistani and Afghan officials as talks were disrupted by news of Taliban chief Mullah Omar's death More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs