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Death toll in Bangladesh building collapse rises to at least 149

April 24, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Rescuers lower a survivor from debris of a building that collapsed in Bangladesh.
Rescuers lower a survivor from debris of a building that collapsed in Bangladesh. (A.M. Ahad / Associated Press…)

The death toll in the collapse of a Bangladesh building surged to at least 149 after rescuers worked through the night to pull people from the rubble, news services reported. As morning dawned Thursday, many remained trapped under fallen slabs of concrete and jumbled debris.

“I gave them whistles, water, torchlights. I heard them cry. We can't leave them behind this way,” fire official Abul Khayer told the Associated Press.

The Rana Plaza building on the outskirts of Dhaka held several garment factories estimated to employ about 2,500 people, according to labor activists.

Workers spotted cracks in the building and refused to enter the day before the eight-story structure collapsed Wednesday, but they were told to return to work despite their fears, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights said in a statement after the disaster.

“They live hand to mouth. They felt they had no choice but to go into the factory,” said Charlie Kernaghan, director of the institute. “Within an hour the building collapsed.”

Police and a government development authority have filed separate cases of negligence against the building owner, local police chief Mohammaed Asaduzzaman said. Government officials told the Bangladeshi national news agency that the building was not constructed in line with safety regulations.

The Los Angeles Times was unable to immediately reach the building owner for comment Wednesday.

The disaster renewed attention to the dangers facing workers in the booming Bangladeshi apparel industry, already under scrutiny after a calamitous factory fire killed 112 workers in November.

Western brands believed to have produced clothes at Rana Plaza hustled to issue statements as workers groups tried to determine which companies were tied to the stricken factories. Some said their clothes were no longer made at Rana Plaza; others pledged to investigate.

Labor rights groups urged companies that sell clothing made in Bangladesh to sign an agreement ensuring building inspections, worker rights, training and other reforms.

“The safety agreement is the first step toward ensuring no more lives are lost,” Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, said in a statement Wednesday.

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