The death toll from Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster rose to 540 yesterday after 15 bodies were overnight pulled from the wreckage of an eight-story building housing garment factories, the Bangladeshi Army said.
Major Sazzad Hossain of the army control room, which was set up to coordinate the rescue operation following the disaster last month, told reporters that recovery efforts had gathered pace and the “death toll now stands at 540.”
The building housing five garment factories collapsed near the capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday last week, trapping more than 3,000 people. Some 2,437 people have been rescued, Hossain said.
Clutching photographs of their missing loved ones, scores of distraught relatives gathered at the disaster site for an eleventh day yesterday as cranes and bulldozers cut through a mountain of concrete and mangled steel.
Preliminary findings of a government probe has blamed vibrations by four giant generators set up in the factory compound’s upper floors for triggering the collapse.
“When these generators were started after a power cut they created vibrations, and together with the vibration of thousands of sewing machines, they triggered the collapse,” Main Uddin Khandaker, head of the probe body, told reporters on Friday night.
“Within five minutes the building caved in and sandwiched into one floor like a pack of cards,” he said, adding a final probe report would be submitted after the recovery operation ends.
Khandaker said that the building, Rana Plaza, was built “for commercial use” and not for factories, adding that it failed to withstand the vibrations because the owner used sub-standard rods, bricks and other materials to construct it.
Police have arrested 12 people including the plaza’s owner and four garment factory owners for forcing people to work on the day of the collapse despite cracks appearing in the structure the previous day.
The tragedy came just five months after a fire killed 111 people in a nearby garment factory.
UK retailer Primark, Italy’s Benetton and Spanish firm Mango have admitted that they had placed orders in the factories based in the compound, triggering an angry response in many Western countries.
Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest garment exporter after China.
The industry accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports and more than 40 percent of its industrial workforce.