Bangladesh factory collapse probe uncovers abuses

A rescue worker attempts to find survivors within the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka One day before the collapse, the building was briefly evacuated when cracks appeared in the walls

A Bangladesh government report into the collapse of a multi-storey factory building, which killed more than 1,100, has uncovered a series of violations.

The report said the building had been constructed with sub-standard materials on unsuitable land.

It also recommended life sentences for the building's owner and the owners of five garment factories operating there.

The Rana Plaza collapse on 24 April is one of the world's worst industrial disasters and sparked global outrage.

It highlighted working conditions, low wages and safety standards in the country's garment sector. In the wake of the disaster, there have been a series of angry protests by workers in the garment industry.

On Thursday, thousands of garment workers took to the streets in Ashulia, the industrial belt near Dhaka, demanding wage increases and other benefits. Some vehicles were attacked during the protest.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said they had shut down 21 factories to avoid further unrest.

'Poor construction'

The Rana Plaza disaster prompted the government to introduce some reforms and some international retailers have also proposed an accord to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh.

Deadliest industrial disasters

Bhopal, India (1984): Toxic gas escapes from Union Carbide plant. Official initial death toll put at 3,800; deaths to date thought to be 15,000

Halifax, Canada (1917): Explosion on board French munitions vessel Mont-Blanc in Halifax harbour, and resulting tsunami, kill 1,950 people

Benxihu, China (1942): Explosion destroys Benxihu (Honkeiko) colliery in Liaoning, China, during Japanese occupation, killing 1,549 labourers

Oppau, Germany (1921): Explosion at Badische Anilin chemical works, producing nitrates, destroys plant as well as nearby village, killing 1,500 people

Savar, Bangladesh (2013): Eight-storey Rana Plaza, housing garment factories, collapses in suburb of Dhaka, killing at least 1,127 people

Courrieres, France (1906): Dust explosion at Courrieres mine in Pas-de-Calais department kills almost 1,100 people

The owner of the building, Mohammad Sohel Rana, was arrested last month as were the owners of factories inside the building.

Mr Rana has made no public comment about the incident. His father and uncle have also been arrested and no members of his family have come forward with a statement.

The man in charge of the investigation, Mainuddin Khandker, told BBC Bangla on Wednesday that "extremely poor" construction materials were used in the building and said the report identified five causes of the collapse.

"A portion of the building was also constructed on land which had been a body of water before and was filled with rubbish," he told the Associated Press news agency.

The 400-page report was submitted to the government on Wednesday. It also made several recommendations. As well as life sentences for those responsible for the collapse these included:

  • Confiscating the land on which the factory had been built
  • Providing financial support to the families of the workers who died and who were injured
  • Forming a department specifically to deal with this sector of the garment industry to prevent a repeat of such incidents

The authorities say 1130 people died, about 2,500 people were injured in the accident and 2,437 people were rescued.

On 10 May a woman was pulled alive from the rubble, 17 days after the collapse. It was a glimmer of hope for rescue workers after weeks of hauling bodies out of the ruins but the authorities called off the rescue just three days later.

Just a day before the collapse, the building was briefly evacuated when cracks appeared in the walls. However, workers were later allowed back in or told to return by the factory owners.

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world. Some of the clothes produced in the Rana Plaza building were made for Western retailers.

Rana Plaza collapse

Floor Factory/business

Seventh

New Wave Style*

Sixth

New Wave Style

Fifth

Ether Tex

Fourth

Phantom Tac

Third

Phantom Apparels

Second

New Wave Apparel, New Wave Bottoms

First

Brac Bank and shops

Ground

Brac Bank and shops

Source: BGMEA

Firms who say they used the Dhaka suppliers

Loblaw

"Our priorities are helping the victims and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents in the future."

Primark

"Primark's team in Bangladesh has been working to put in place immediate and long-term help for victims of this disaster."

Joe Fresh

"Our priorities are helping impacted employees and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents like this in the future."

Benetton

"We have since established that one of our suppliers had occasionally subcontracted orders to one of these Dhaka-based manufacturers."

Matalan

"Whilst we were not using any suppliers based in the building... We can confirm that we are working closely with the BGMEA and our local team in Bangladesh to provide financial and other support to help those affected."

Mango

"Mango would like to clarify that the supplier Phantom was not a supplier of the company, although they were planning to produce some samples for various company lines, samples that still had not been started."

Bonmarche

"We are committed to reviewing how we can learn from this with other retailers, but our focus now is rightly on information gathering and supporting where possible our supplier and the families of those involved in this tragedy."

The Children's Place

"One of our suppliers was located in the building that collapsed. While none of our apparel was being produced there at the time of the tragedy, we are fully aware of our responsibilities in the aftermath of this event. "

*Reports say New Wave Style supplied up to 27 companies from its Dhaka factories, but the full list is not available.

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