Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Bangladesh death toll tops 800

Rescue work is seen in progress at the site of a garment factory building that collapsed in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP)

Dozens of bodies recovered from a collapsed garment factory building were so decomposed they were being sent to a lab for DNA identification, police said, as the death toll from Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster topped 800.

Following protests, authorities also began disbursing salaries and other benefits to survivors of the collapse in Dhaka.

The European Union's delegation to Bangladesh urged the government to "act immediately" to improve working conditions. Authorities said the government has closed 18 garment factories in recent days for failing to meet work and safety standards.

Police said 803 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building and more were expected as salvage work continued two weeks after the April 24 collapse.

There is no clear indication of how many bodies still remain trapped in the debris because the exact number of people inside the building at the time of the collapse is unknown. More than 2,500 people were rescued alive.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association earlier said 3,122 workers were employed at the five factories housed in the building, but it was not clear how many were there during the packed morning shift when it collapsed. Several stores and a bank were also in the building.

Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, a top military official in the area, said the operation to recover bodies from the tangle of wreckage could continue for two to three more days before they would ask the local administration to take care of the site.

Mr Suhrawardy said they had to send 36 decomposing bodies to Dhaka Medical College Hospital to collect DNA samples because they were beyond identification. Authorities expected to send more bodies for testing in the coming days, with temperatures in the high 80s Fahrenheit (low 30s Celsius) and rain pouring down.

The disaster is the worst ever in the garment sector, far surpassing fires last year that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and 112 in Bangladesh, as well as the 1911 garment disaster in New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory that killed 146 workers.

After hundreds of garment workers protested for compensation, authorities started disbursing salaries and other benefits.

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