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Bangladesh garment trade disaster kills 175

World News – Survivors cried out to rescuers Thursday from the rubble of a block of garment factories in Bangladesh that collapsed killing 175 people, sparking criticism of their Western clients.

As the plaintive appeals from the site of Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster filtered through the concrete, relatives desperate for news of their loved ones descended on the scene clutching their photographs.

Flags flew at half-mast and a day of national mourning was declared after the latest tragedy to strike Bangladesh’s garment industry, a key driver of the impoverished nation’s economy that has a shocking safety record.

More than 1,000 people were injured when the eight-storey building, housing five garment factories on the outskirts of Dhaka, imploded on Wednesday, after managers allegedly ignored workers’ warnings that the building had become unstable. “The death toll is now 175,” said Wali Asraf, a senior police officer in the disaster control room.

Authorities say they do not know how many people are still trapped under the mountain of concrete, but firefighters said they could still hear desperate cries for help from multiple places.

“I just heard someone saying ‘please save me’,” said Mamun Mahmud, a senior fire-fighting official, adding that about 1,500 people had so far been rescued alive.

Mahbubur Rahman, the operations director of the fire service, told that rescuers had stopped using heavy clearing equipment to avoid jeopardising the chances of survival for those trapped alive.

“We’re digging carefully and using only small machines to cut through the pancaked floors,” he said. As body after body was laid out on the ground of a nearby school, thousands of people filed past them to find their missing relatives.

“I’ve seen all the bodies. My sister was not among them. She is also not in any of the hospitals,” said Mukta Begum, holding the photo of her younger sibling Suryaban, a garment worker.

The accident has again highlighted safety problems and poor working conditions that plague the textile industry in Bangladesh, the world’s second-biggest clothing exporter.

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