The death toll from the collapse of an eight-story building in Bangladesh Wednesday rose to 194, and it could climb higher as more people are feared trapped under the debris, police said on Thursday.
Rescue workers equipped with concrete cutters and cranes worked hard to pull people out from the rubble of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, located 19 miles outside of the capital city of Dhaka, which collapsed during rush hour Wednesday morning. The building housed several garment factories that supplied clothing to retail outlets and suppliers in the Europe and the U.S., as well as a bank and a shopping center. According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Mohammad Atiqul Islam, more than 3,100 people were there at work when the accident occurred on Wednesday.
"The death toll could go up as many are still trapped under the rubble," Dhaka's district police chief, Habibur Rahman, told Reuters on Thursday. Many are feared trapped under debris as only the ground floor of the building remained intact after the collapse.
Apparently, the building collapsed suddenly and the entire structure except the main pillar and parts of its front wall crashed to the ground, local media reported.
The incident is the third disaster in the past five months that killed scores of workers in Bangladesh factories, heightening concerns about inadequate safety standards and labor practices. Already there have been claims of employers disregarding employee safety and security standards; child and forced labor; and unhealthy working conditions in the impoverished nation’s booming garment sector.
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Zahidur Rahman, director of public relations at Enam Medical College and Hospital, told the Associated Press that by Wednesday evening, 87 people had been confirmed dead. Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder said 600 had been rescued.
"I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound, but couldn't understand what was happening," Sohra Begum, a worker at one of the garment factories, told Reuters.
"I removed the rubble and came out with two other workers. But at least 30 other workers in my cutting section were still unaccounted for," a garment worker told Somoy TV.
Apparently, owners of the building ignored a warning not to allow workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday, local police said.
Deaths due to building collapses and fire mishaps appear to be common in Bangladesh as builders and factory owners in the poor nation often ignore the safety measures mandated by the government when building multistory buildings.
More than 70 people were killed after a multistory garment factory collapsed in the same area in 2005, and last November a fire in a garment factory in a Dhaka suburb killed at least 110 people.