World News : The death toll from last week’s collapse of a garment factory complex in Bangladesh passed 500 on Friday as the country’s prime minister said Western retailers had to share some of the blame for the tragedy.
With bulldozers now clawing away at the mountain of rubble at the site of last Wednesday’s disaster, the number of bodies being recovered from the country’s deadliest industrial disaster has been increasing sharply.
Lieutenant Mir Rabbi, an officer in a special army control room set up to coordinate the rescue operation, told AFP the “death toll now stands at 501”, a sharp rise on the figure of 441 compiled by authorities on Thursday evening.
Dozens more people are thought to have been buried alive after the eight-storey building collapsed on April 24 in Savar, which lies around 30 kilometres (20 miles) to the northwest of Dhaka.
Around 3,000 garment workers were on shift at the time of the disaster in the Rana Plaza compound which housed five different textile factories.
Spain’s Mango, Britain’s low-cost Primark chain and the Italian label Benetton were among the retailers who have confirmed having products made at Rana Plaza where the typical worker took home less than 40 dollars a month.
The collapse was the latest in a series of disasters to befall the $20 billion industry which accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s exports.
A fire at another factory compound killed 111 workers last November and witnesses say the April 24 disaster happened after bosses insisted staff remain at their workstations even though cracks had been detected in the building.
In an interview with CNN, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina defended the industry’s safety record, saying the recent deadly explosion at a fertiliser plant in the United States showed that no country was immune.
“Anywhere in the world, any accident can take place,” she said.