At least 228 people have been confirmed dead in the aftermath of a building collapse in Bangladesh. The collapse happened yesterday morning in the suburb of Savar, outside the capital of Dhaka.
The building housed five garment factories as well as a shopping center. Officials say that while 228 are confirmed dead, they fear the toll will actually be higher. Only 1,400 of the over 3,100 factory workers have been accounted for. Many of the mostly female workers are still trapped in the rubble.
An initial investigation found that the top four floors of the eight story building had been constructed illegally without permits. The factories also opened despite a crack discovered in the building the day before. The building owner and local politician, Mohammed Sohel Rana, had told factory owners that the crack was not dangerous and they proceeded to open the factories. Rana is currently on the run from police.
Many of the factories in the building have found connections to multiple Western retailers such as Walmart, Benetton and Cato Fashions, the Dutch C & A, British Prismark, and Spanish Mango, among others. Labor activists searching the rubble found labels for Prismark and Mango, and information from customs records, company websites, and documents found in the building show connections to the other retailers. A spokesperson for Benetton Group has denied that any of the factories in the building currently had orders from Benetton. A spokesperson from Walmart told reporters that the company is currently investigating whether any of the factories had current orders from Walmart.
Outrage over the conditions of garment factories in Bangladesh gained international headlines in November of 2012 when 112 workers died during a fire in a factory that was producing clothes for Walmart and other Western retailers. An official investigation ruled that the fire was deliberately started and determined that up to nine officials prevented workers from leaving the building and even padlocked exits.
Media Resources: New York Times 4/25/2013; Reuters 4/25/2013; Telegrah 4/25/2013; Feminist Newswire 4/24/2013
Birds eye view of Dhaka, Bangladesh from Shutterstock