The head of a Bangladeshi government committee investigating last week's factory collapse near Dhaka has said generators may have caused the disaster. Chancellor Merkel, meanwhile, has appealed for improved standards.
Politician Mainuddin Khandkar, who's leading a parliamentary inquiry into how a clothing factory near Dhaka collapsed and killed more than 500 people, said on Friday that four large power generators high in the building might have prompted the tragedy. He said his committee's full report would soon be submitted to Bangladesh's government.
Khandkar said that when these generators were restarted after a power cut, the subsequent vibrations - along with those of thousands of heavy sewing machines - set off the collapse.
"The vibration created by machines and generators operating in the five garment factories contributed first to the cracks and then the collapse," he said. The Rana Plaza building, some 20 miles (30 km) north of the capital Dhaka, housed five separate garment factories. Khandkar also said that substandard rods, cement, bricks and other weak materials were used in the initial construction process.
Authorities on Friday increased the death toll from the collapse to more than 500 people. Roughly 3,000 staff were on shift at the time of the collapse. Police also announced that they had arrested one of the building's engineers on charges of negligence on Thursday.
Merkel seeks stricter standards
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at Germany's annual Protestant Church conference in Hamburg, called for an improvement in the "Fair Trade" system to help stamp out substandard working conditions around the world.
"Europe can easily become a front-runner here, demand a declaration on the products' background, on how these clothes were produced," Merkel said, adding that this would allow consumers to vote with their feet.
"And consumers have the power," Merkel said.
The collapse has prompted several Western customer countries to question the continuing use of Bangladeshi factories for clothing. Disney has announced that it will stop buying from the country.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in an interview with CNN that trading partners should not react to hastily, pointing to the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas as an example that no country was immune to industrial accidents.
"Anywhere in the world, any accident can take place," Hasina said.
msh/slk (AFP, AP)