175 killed in Bangladesh building collapse. Dozens remain trapped

Fire fighters try to rescue garment workers, who are trapped inside the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Fire fighters try to rescue garment workers, who are trapped inside the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

At least 175 mainly women workers were killed in a Bangladesh building collapse and rescuers searching for survivors said this morning that many more were trapped in the rubble of a complex that housed factories supplying Western clothes retailers.

The disaster, which comes five months after a factory fire that killed more than 100 people, could hurt Bangladesh’s reputation as a source of low-cost goods and call attention to European and North American companies that buy products there.

Rescue workers were digging through the wreckage of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (20 miles) outside the capital Dhaka, which collapsed on Wednesday. More than 1,000 people were injured.

“The death toll could go up as many are still trapped under the rubble,” Dhaka’s district police chief, Habibur Rahman, told Reuters.

Dhaka city development authority on Thursday filed a case against the building’s owner for faulty construction. It filed another case against the owner and the five garments factories for causing unlawful death, police chief Rahman said.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Mohammad Atiqul Islam said there were 3,122 workers in the factories on Wednesday. He said there had been indications from local officials that cracks had been found in the building the day before.

“We asked the garment owners to keep it closed,” Islam said.

Rana Plaza’s owner had told proprietors of the building’s five garment factories that the cracks were not dangerous, Islam added. “After getting the green signal from the plaza owner all the garment factories opened,” he said.

However, police official Mohammad Asaduzzaman said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected on Tuesday.

News reports beamed around the world showed young women workers, some apparently semi-conscious, being pulled out of the rubble by firefighters and troops. Doctors at Dhaka hospitals said they couldn’t cope with the number of victims.

“I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound, but couldn’t understand what was happening. I ran and was hit by something on my head,” said factory worker Zohra Begum.

BUILDING FIRES, COLLAPSE

The Rana Plaza building collapse follows a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that killed 112 people in November and another incident at a factory in January in which seven people died, compounding concerns about worker safety and low wages in Bangladesh.

UK clothing retailer Primark, which has 257 stores across Europe and is a unit of Associated British Foods, confirmed that one of its suppliers occupied the second floor of the building.

“The company is shocked and deeply saddened by this appalling incident at Savar, near Dhaka, and expresses its condolences to all of those involved,” Primark said in a statement on it’s Ethical Trading website.

Canada’s Loblaw, a unit of food processing and distribution firm George Weston Ltd, also confirmed a connection with the building. It said one factory made a small number of “Joe Fresh” apparel items for the company.

“We are extremely saddened to learn of the collapse of a building complex in Bangladesh and our condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy,” Julija Hunter, public relations vice-president for Loblaw Companies, said in an email.

Both companies operate 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 clothing brands such as Spain’s Mango and Benetton had used suppliers in the building in recent months. A Benetton spokesman said none of the factories were suppliers to the company.

About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh’s garment industry, making it the world’s second-largest apparel exporter.

Following the Tazreen fire, giant U.S. retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it would take steps to alleviate safety concerns, while Gap Inc. announced a four-step fire-safety program.

“Still we are struggling to overcome the odds after the Tazreen fire, now another incident which is a strong blow for the sector,” BGMEA’s Islam said.

However, Edward Hertzman, a sourcing agent based in New York who also publishes trade magazine Sourcing Journal, said pressure from U.S. retailers to keep a lid on costs continues to foster unsafe conditions.

Hertzman, whose trade publication has offices in Bangladesh, said New Wave Bottoms Ltd occupied the second floor, Phantom Apparels Ltd the third, Phantom Tack Ltd the fourth and Ethar Textile Ltd the fifth.

The New Wave website listed 27 main buyers, including firms from Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Thousands protest in New York over Eric Garner…

The Reverend Al Sharpton led thousands of chanting but peaceful activists in a march across Staten Island on Saturday to protest the death of Eric Garner.

International

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated.

National

SpaceX rocket terminated in Texas test flight

A Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket suffered an anomaly shortly after launch on a test flight, triggering its automatic termination system.

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

Music

Arcade Fire concert review, Massachusetts, Aug. 19

Arcade Fire take the opposite approach of "Shut up and play the hits," and it works in their favor on the "Reflektor" tour.

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…