Bangladesh factory collapse death toll over 1,000

This video says about itself:

Bangladesh union representative speaks to Al Jazeera

May 9, 2013

The death toll in Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster has soared past 1,000 after more bodies were found in the rubble of a collapsed building outside the capital, Dhaka.

The “death toll now stands at 1,006” as the recovery operation entered its 17th day since the building caved in at Savar town, army spokesman Captain Shahnewaz Zakaria told the AFP news agency on Friday.

Some of the bodies, which are badly decomposed, could be identified by mobile phones in their pockets or factory identity cards around their neck, he said.

“Of the total dead, most are female garment workers.”

Of the bodies recovered so far, “at least 150 bodies were buried in unmarked graves in a state graveyard after they could not be identified,” Zakaria added.

Death Toll Passes 1,000 in Bangladesh Collapse: here.

By Sarath Kumara and Wimal Perera:

Death toll in Bangladesh factory collapse reaches 950

10 May 2013

The death toll of the Savar building collapse reached 950 by Thursday evening, refuting earlier claims of the Bangladesh government and business organisations, which put the number of deaths at a lower figure.

Press reports indicated 121 decomposed bodies were retrieved from the wreck of the Savar building by noon on the 16th day after the disaster. It is feared that the death toll will increase further as the debris continues to be cleared.

Previous official estimates held that as there were fewer than 3,200 workers in the building at the time of the collapse on April 24, with 2,437 rescued, the death toll would be less than 763. This underscores that the figures published by the authorities after the disaster were unreliable.

The collapsed eight-story Rana Plaza building in Savar near Dhaka had housed five garment factories. The factory owners ordered workers into the building, despite their objections due to serious, visible cracks noted in the building on April 23. Thousands of workers were injured in the disaster, many critically, and hundreds will suffer permanent disability.

As body parts are retrieved from the collapsed multi-story building, mass anger with the political establishment has deepened. The fact that no survivors have been found since heavy cranes began clearing debris have heightened relatives’ concerns that these operations will end the chances of rescuing remaining survivors.

Hundreds of surviving workers and their relatives staged a protest on Tuesday near Savar bus terminal and blocked the Dhaka-Aricha highway for two hours, demanding wages and other benefits.

Workers from the Rana Plaza building are charging that, after the collapse of their plant, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is now also violating compensation agreements. The BGMEA is only ready to give a pittance to the survivors: one month’s salary.

The Daily Star cited a worker who said, “We heard they [BGMEA] were going to pay only one month’s salary. But we want four months’ pay and other perks, as per the rules.”

Another worker, Shipu Begum, explained: “We lost many colleagues, while most of the injured will not be able to bear their treatment expenditure with a month’s salary.”

In another devastating example of the deadly conditions in Bangladeshi garment factories, a factory fire at Tung Hai Sweater killed eight on Wednesday night—including Managing Director Mahbubur Rahman, Deputy Inspector General of Police Z.M. Monzur Morshed, and Sohel Mostafa Swapan, a regional leader of the Jubo League, the ruling Awami League’s youth movement.

It is not clear what these officials were doing at the factory, though Reuters wrote that their presence highlighted the “entanglement” between higher officials and big business in Bangladesh.

Because the factory was closed at 11 p.m. when the blaze took place, workers were not on the premises. Reuters reported that this company is a large one, running two factories employing 7,000 workers.

Workers at the Rana Plaza building who survived after being trapped in the rubble have been traumatized, with some rescued only after spending four days under the debris. Describing her experience, Laboni, rescued after 36 hours, said: “A pillar had fallen on my left arm. Blood was coming out of my head, eyes and nose.” One of her friends, Dipa Patra, died after a big piece of concrete fell on her chest.

Laboni, 22, who lost her left hand, still screams, “Get me out of the building. It terrifies me,” when someone tries to wake her. She told the Daily Star: “My life is ruined … I don’t want to see the life of any other man or woman ruined like mine.”

“Whenever we need to wake her up … she springs out of her bed, scared and stupefied,” said her father.

There is no rehabilitation program for the partially disabled, however. What the government and business organizations are interested in is to re-start the garment factories, which account for 80 percent of the country’s exports.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Italian retailer Benetton’s CEO Biagio Chiarolanza admitted on Wednesday that his firm had had shirts made for it at the Rana Plaza building, something Benetton initially denied. In a devastating indictment of the conditions his firm and other major international clothing retailers impose on garment workers, Chiarolanza admitted: “The wages in Bangladesh are an act of cruelty. Women cannot support their families on $40 a month.”

He cynically added, “I can assure everyone that Benetton has always paid special attention to the workers condition, and the environment in which they operate. I believe our long-standing commitment to social issues speaks for itself.”

With several Western retailers threatening to withdraw their operations from the country to prevent the exposure of their connections with sweatshops, the Bangladeshi government is desperate. On Wednesday it temporarily shut down 18 garment factories—16 in Dhaka and two in Chittagong.

Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui tried to portray the action as part of cleaning up of operations “deemed to be dangerous.” However, with more than 5,400 factories in this sector in Bangladesh, in which unsafe and unhealthy conditions are common, this measure is for show.

In Dhaka, the 16 factories ordered to close were part of a group of 32 that Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) ordered shut because of faults that pose dangers to the workers. But DIFE officials could not confirm what happened with the remaining factories, the Daily Star reported on Thursday.

Business groups protested even these cosmetic gestures. The BGMEA and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) expressed concern over the shutdown in a meeting with the prime minister on Wednesday. Former FBCCI president A.K. Azad said: “Firstly, we went to the PM’s residence, and being instructed, we met Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui at his residence and expressed our concern.”

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33 thoughts on “Bangladesh factory collapse death toll over 1,000

  1. Pingback: Interesting Blog Award, thanks Shaun! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Monday, 13 May 2013

    DEATH TOLL PASSES 1,100 – in the Rana Plaza disaster

    THE death toll from the collapse of the Dhaka building housing garment factories that workers were ordered back into, despite warnings, reached over 1,121 on Friday.

    Rescuers pulled out 28 more bodies, which saw the total death toll reach 1,121 with the new finds made 16 days into the rescue work at Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories, and collapsed on April 24.

    A total of 722 bodies were handed over to family members so far on Friday, 79 were kept at Savar Adhar Chandra School ground while 84 were at different hospitals, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

    Some 156 unidentified bodies were buried in the city’s Jurain graveyard.

    The disaster management control cell, which was coordinating the operation, called off its decision to finish work in a day or two.

    Commander of the 14th Independent Engineering Brigade of Dhaka Cantonment, Brig Gen Azmal Kabir, said on Thursday: ‘On Wednesday, we assumed that no more dead bodies would be found as the frequency of finding bodies was decreasing.

    ‘But in the early hours, we unexpectedly found at least 70 bodies.’

    Rescuers said that most of the bodies were recovered from the staircase of the eight-storey commercial building, which they dug into on Thursday.

    The find has increased their fears of finding many more bodies in the rubble as a large number of people remain missing since the country’s deadliest industrial disaster.

    Azmal said: ‘We assume that a number of workers came down by the staircase to the second floor on the day of the disaster only to find the gate of the rear entrance locked. That portion of the staircase went under the mud burying them alive.’

    The army officer said the rescuers could not reach the staircase in the manual phase of the operation and it was finally exposed on Thursday.

    When asked about how many dead bodies might be still buried in the rubble, Azmal said he could not give any numbers. ‘Employers cannot confirm exact number of workers, nor can we. But we will be able to give an approximate number after the rescuers reach the basement.’

    He said that the army would abandon the operations once it had visual confirmation that no bodies remained after reaching the basement, adding: ‘We are now digging a hole to the basement. We are assuming that few more bodies will be found there.’

    Around 150 traders, who had shops in the collapsed building, organised a human chain on Thursday near the site and demanded compensation for their losses. They claimed to have lost all their capital in the disaster and were inundated in debt, and sought the prime minister’s intervention.

    Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories, a market and a bank branch, collapsed after factory owners forced several thousand workers to work even though the building was marked unsafe the day before, after cracks developed on some pillars and floors.

    • Meanwhile, in the UK, the TUC has on Friday published figures which suggest that the reason costs are cut and wages are low in the Bangladesh textile industry has nothing to do with cash-strapped consumers demanding cheap clothes.

    The TUC said in a statement: ‘In the days after the disaster, some commentators have claimed that the blame for the poor conditions and poverty pay rates could be laid solely at the door of Western consumers on the hunt for ever cheaper bargains on the high street.’

    But using figures supplied by textile workers’ unions in Bangladesh, the TUC has calculated that doubling the wages of a Dhaka textile worker would add just 2p to the cost of a T-shirt bought in any store on the UK high street (where ‘budget’ fashion tops tend to range from £2 to £10).

    In Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector, which supplies high-street fashion stores across the UK and Europe, wages are as low as £27 a month, and working conditions so poor that factory fires are commonplace. In fact another fire took place just this week in which eight people died.

    Unions in Bangladesh say that workers are usually paid just 12p for the six T-shirts they are expected to make every hour and as they work around 200 hours a month, this works out at roughly 2p for every T-shirt.

    Commenting on the figures, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘It isn’t UK consumers, trying to make their wages stretch further as their living standards take a hit, who are to blame for life and labour being cheap in Bangladesh.

    ‘Wages paid out to the thousands of women who work in the clothing factories are just a tiny fraction of the end price we pay at the till.

    ‘It’s the multinational companies – the brands, retailers and manufacturers who are all well-known names on our high streets – who bear the responsibility.

    ‘They are the ones who must change their behaviour and encourage their overseas suppliers to pay higher wages and improve working conditions, not UK consumers.’

    The TUC is asking consumers touched by the Dhaka tragedy to use social media to help share a graphic of this message with friends and colleagues, to build pressure on clothing brands and the Bangladeshi government over pay and safety.

    By Thursday, a total of 2,437 people had been rescued alive so far from the rubble of the collapsed Dhaka building. Of them, nine succumbed to their injuries at different hospitals.

    On Wednesday, Workers Uniting issued the following statement on Bangladesh:

    ‘Workers Uniting shares the global reaction of horror and anger at the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh on April 24 which killed more than 700 workers – with nearly 1,000 still unaccounted for. This is only the latest in a series of fatal industrial “accidents” in the global garment industry.

    ‘The reports and worker testimonies we have received from the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights starkly demonstrate the suffering of the survivors and the callousness of many global apparel brands that have sought to distance themselves from the disaster.

    ‘Let’s be clear. The companies that flocked to Bangladesh in search of the world’s cheapest labour bear responsibility for this tragedy.

    ‘The impunity of the multinational apparel brands and government officials and the violation of Bangladeshi workers’ rights must end NOW.

    ‘• We demand that all apparel brands sourcing in Bangladesh immediately sign the Joint Memorandum of Understanding on Fire and Building Safety proposed by IndustriALL and a coalition of NGOs.

    ‘This document, which sets clear and enforceable targets for action by the brands, is the only acceptable mechanism.
    ‘The brands must show their commitment to worker rights by staying in Bangladesh and working to improve conditions under the MOU.
    ‘• We urge the United States and the European Union to immediately suspend Bangladesh’s market access under the Generalised System of Preferences programme until the Bangladeshi government takes concrete action to respect labour rights, including at minimum legislation that allows all workers to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining without government interference.

    ‘• We call on national legislatures in our countries to enact laws, such as the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act introduced in the US Congress, that would ban the importation of goods produced under sweatshop conditions.’

    Workers Uniting is the new international union created by Unite and the United Steelworkers, the biggest private sector union in the US and Canada.

    Hundreds of survivors of Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster on Wednesday blocked a main highway to demand wages, as the death toll from the collapse of the nine-storey building passed 700.

    Around 3,000 garment workers were on shift at the Rana Plaza complex at the time of the collapse on April 24.

    Many of the staff were earning only around $38 dollars a month, making clothing for Western retailers such as Britain’s Primark and the Spanish label Mango.

    The workers are now demanding payment from factory owners, both for their wages and as compensation for injuries suffered when the complex caved in.

    Police say around 400 survivors blocked a highway connecting the capital with the country’s south and southwest on Tuesday by staging a sit-down protest.

    On Monday, the Bangladeshi government announced it would set up a new high-level panel to inspect thousands of garment factories for building flaws.

    The government made a similar announcement after a devastating fire swept a garment factory in November last year, killing 111 workers, but subsequent inspections were widely derided as insufficient.

    A preliminary government probe into the Rana Plaza disaster has blamed vibrations from giant generators combined with the vibrations of sewing machines for the building’s collapse.

    Police have arrested twelve people including the complex’s proprietor Sohel Rana and four garment factory owners for forcing people to work on the day of the accident, even though cracks appeared in the structure the previous day.

    Factory workers have held protests calling for tough punishment for those responsible, and stronger safety regulations.

    Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest garment exporter after China. The industry accounts for over 40 per cent of its industrial workforce and 80 per cent of the nation’s $20bn exports.


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  4. Filthy water at Dhaka factory downs 450 workers

    (06-06 15:27)

    About 450 garment workers fell ill during their shifts at a sweater factory near Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, and authorities said the water supply was suspected.
    Investigators from the government’s health ministry were testing the water at the Starlight Sweater Factory for possible contamination, area civil surgeon Syed Habibullah said.
    The sick workers suffered vomiting, nausea and upset stomachs starting about two hours into their shifts yesterday. Habibullah said they were given mainly saline at hospitals.
    The factory gets its drinking water from an underground reservoir, chief executive Mohammad Shafiur Rahman said. It’s piped to a tank on the roof of the eight-story building and supplied to each floor by jars. The drinking water is supplied separately from the building’s tap water, which workers are asked not to drink, he said.
    The factory that employs about 6,000 people in Gazipur near Dhaka was closed yesterday but reopened today.


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