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Dozens dead in building collapse

Rescuers using floodlights worked into the night in an attempt to free dozens of people believed trapped under an eight-storey building housing garment factories that collapsed near Bangladesh's capital, killing at least 87 people.

In some places, they were able to cut holes into the jumbled mess of concrete with drilling machines or their bare hands, and pass water and torches to people trapped inside.

"I gave them whistles, water, torchlights, I heard them cry. We can't leave them behind this way," said fire official Abul Khayer. He said rescue operations would continue through the night because many survivors were still believed to be inside the collapsed building.

Less than five months after a factory fire killed 112 people, the latest disaster again underscored the unsafe conditions in Bangladesh's massive garment industry.

Workers said they had hesitated to go to work because the building had developed such large cracks the previous day that it had been reported on local news channels.

Abdur Rahim, who worked on the fifth floor, said a factory manager assured them there was no problem, so they went inside. "We started working. After about an hour or so the building collapsed suddenly," he said.

Home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters during a visit to the site that the building had violated construction codes and "the culprits would be punished".

Among the textile businesses in the building were Phantom Apparels, New Wave Style, New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Brothers. Workers said they did not know what specific clothing brands were being produced in the building because labels are attached after the products are finished.

Sumi, a 25-year-old worker who goes by one name, said she was sewing jeans on the fifth floor with at least 400 others when the building fell. "It collapsed all of a sudden," she said. "No shaking, no indication. It just collapsed on us." She said she managed to reach a hole in the building through which rescuers pulled her out.

Reports suggested the death toll was likely to rise.


From Belfast Telegraph