More than 500 bodies have been recovered from the Bangladesh garment-factory building that collapsed April 24. Meanwhile, police have arrested one of the building’s engineers for alleged negligence.
The death toll from Bangladesh's worst industrial accident rose above 500 on Friday, as workers continued to use cranes to remove the concrete rubble of the garment-factory building, which lies 20 miles (30 km) north of the capital, Dhaka.
"We are still proceeding cautiously so that we get the bodies intact," said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hassan Suhwardy, the commander of the area's army garrison supervising the rescue operation.
Meanwhile, police investigating the collapse arrested one of the building's engineers, Abdur Razzak Khan, on Thursday on a charge of negligence.
Local media said the detained owner of the collapsed building, Mohammed Sohel Rana, had called in Khan to inspect the building after it developed cracks on April 23. The same day, Khan appeared on a private television station saying that after his inspection he had advised Rana to evacuate the eight-storey building because it was unsafe.
Despite his warning, thousands of mostly female workers were sent back into the factory the next morning. Hours later the building collapsed.
Khan also worked as the building owner's consultant when the owner made an illegal three-storey addition, a police official said Friday.
The local mayor has also been suspended from office for alleged negligence in approving the design of the building.
Pressure on Western retailers
May Day protests in Bangladesh drew more than 10,000 protestors in Dhaka on Wednesday, according to police. Some protestors demanded the execution of factory bosses over the collapse.
That same day EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht warned Bangladesh and the apparel industry that the EU was "considering" a rethink of duty-free and quota-free access for exports from Bangladesh into Europe.
Sixty percent of Bangladesh's apparel exports go to Europe, often for sale in chic retail outlets. Bangladesh's low-wage garment industry earns the South Asian nation $20 billion (15 billion euros) a year, making it the second-largest garment producer after China.
During a May Day private mass, Vatican radio quoted the pontiff as saying that the victims of Bangladesh's recent workplace disasters had worked under "slave labor" conditions.
Canada's Loblaw Ltd, whose garments were being made in the collapsed building, said Thursday it would remain in Bangladesh but promised to add "building integrity" to its audit of suppliers' facilities.
The collapse was the third deadly incident in six months. In November, a fire at a garment factory on the outskirts of the capital killed 112 people, prompting public outcry.
hc/ipj (Reuters, AP, dpa)