Bangladesh: death toll rises to more than 700

Wednesday, 08 May 2013
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, one of Dhaka’s suburbs, marks a sad record: With the number of dead having risen to 705 as of Tuesday afternoon, it is the worst industrial disaster not only for Bangladesh but for the world.

The building that housed five textile factories collapsed exactly two weeks ago on 24th April. Despite visible, deep cracks in the façade a day earlier, the textile workers, threatened with wage cuts and worse, were forced to go back to their sewing machines after only a short evacuation.

Thus, at the time of the collapse, thousands of workers were inside Rana Plaza building. More than 2,500 were saved but nobody knows exactly how many workers were inside and how high the death toll will climb. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said on Monday that it is working on a “complete list” of all workers employed at the time of the disaster but would take a “few more days”.

More unrest in Savar

On Tuesday, hundreds of workers of the five garment factories had protested for compensation and blocked a highway close to the disaster site. Though no violence was reported, traffic was stalled for various hours. The workers demanded payment of their salaries and other benefits.

The deadline for the same was Tuesday and when the payments weren’t made, the workers took to the streets. A BGMEA team intervened and started disbursing payments (see image). The national minimum wage is 38 dollars per month and many workers do not bring home more than that.

Like many other of the country’s textile factories, the five housed at Rana Plaza - Ether Tex, New Wave Bottoms, New Wave Style, Phantom Apparels and Phantom Tex - produced garments for western buyers, mainly from Europe and the US. Among others, labels or documentation by C&A, Walmart, Primark, The Children's Place, Dress Barn, Benetton, Mango, Kik and Nkd were found. Each year, Bangladesh generates 20 billion dollars through textile and garment exports and the textile industry is the country’s most important source of income.

Image: BGMEA

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