The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Nation & World

May 13, 2013

Bangladesh collapse search over; death toll 1,127

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Nearly three weeks after a Bangladesh garment-factory building collapsed, the search for the dead ended Monday at the site of the worst disaster in the history of the global garment industry. The death toll: 1,127.

Mohammed Amir Hossain Mazumder, deputy director of fire service and civil defense, told The Associated Press the search for bodies from the April 24 collapse was called off at 6 p.m. (1200GMT). "Now the site will be handed over to police for protection. There will be no more activities from fire service or army," he said.

Bulldozers and other vehicles have been removed from the building site, which will be fenced with bamboo sticks. Red flags have been erected around the site to bar entry.

The last body was found on Sunday night. A special prayer service will be held Tuesday to honor the dead, said army Brig. Gen. Mohammad Siddiqul Alam Shikder.

For more than 19 days, the collapsed Rana Plaza in the Dhaka suburb of Savar had been the scene of frantic rescue efforts, anguished families and the overwhelming smell of decaying flesh.

Miracles were few, but on Friday, search teams found Reshma Begum, a seamstress who survived under the rubble for 17 days on dried food and bottled and rain water.

Begum spoke to reporters Monday from the hospital where she is being treated. She told them she never expected to be rescued alive, and she vowed, "I will not work in a garment factory again."

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building focused global attention on hazardous conditions in Bangladesh's powerful garment industry. On Monday, the government agreed to allow the country's garment workers to form trade unions without permission from factory owners as part of growing concessions for industry reform.

Working conditions in the $20 billion industry are grim, a result of government corruption, desperation for jobs, and industry indifference. Minimum wages for garment workers are among the lowest in the world at 3,000 takas ($38) a month.

The Rana Plaza owner and eight other people, including garment factory owners, have been detained in the collapse investigation. Authorities say the building owner added floors to the structure illegally and allowed the factories to install heavy equipment that the building was not designed to support.

The Cabinet decision to allow trade unions came a day after the government announced a plan to raise the minimum wage for garment workers. Both moves are seen as a direct response to the collapse of the building, which housed five garment factories.

Government spokesman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the Cabinet approved an amendment to the 2006 Labor Act lifting restrictions on forming trade unions in most industries. The old law required workers to obtain permission before they could unionize.

"No such permission from owners is now needed," Bhuiyan told reporters after the Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. "The government is doing it for the welfare of the workers."

Local and international trade unions have long campaigned for such changes.

Though the 2006 law technically allowed trade unions — and they exist in many of Bangladesh's other industries — owners of garment factories never allowed them, saying they would lead to a lack of discipline among workers.

Trade union leaders responded cautiously.

"The issue is not really about making a new law or amending the old one," said Kalpana Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, a group campaigning for garment workers' rights. "In the past whenever workers tried to form associations they were subjected to beatings and harassment," she said. "The owners did not hesitate to fire such workers."

Bangladesh's government has in recent years cracked down on trade unions attempting to organize garment workers. In 2010 Hasina's government launched an Industrial Police force to crush street protests by thousands of workers demanding better pay and working conditions.

That year police arrested at least six activists, including Akter, on charges of instigating workers to vandalize factories. They were later freed, but some charges are still pending.

The activists are also angry that police have made no headway in the investigation of the death of a fellow union organizer, Aminul Islam, who was found dead a day after he disappeared from his home in 2012.

"Islam's case is going nowhere even though police say they are investigating," said Akter.

On Monday, nearly 100 garment factories shut down in the Ashulia industrial area near Dhaka, the capital, after protests erupted over the death of a female worker whose body was found inside a garment factory.

The body of Parul Akter, 22, was found on Friday. A local police official, Badrul Alam, said she committed suicide.

Thousands of workers took to the streets Monday and vandalized vehicles and shops before police used sticks to disperse the protesters. Several people were injured, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The wage board will include representatives of factory owners, workers and the government, he said.

Bangladesh has 5,000 garment factories and 3.6 million garment workers. It is the third-biggest exporter of clothes in the world, after China and Italy. China lacks independent labor unions for all industries; the only legal unions are controlled by the Communist Party, and workers complain that they fail to represent their interests.

On Sunday, the Bangladesh government set up a new minimum wage board that will issue recommendations for pay raises within three months, Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddiky said. The Cabinet will then decide whether to accept those proposals.

Government officials also have promised improvements in safety. Since 2005, at least 1,800 garment workers have been killed in factory fires and building collapses in Bangladesh, according to research by the advocacy group International Labor Rights Forum.

In November, 112 workers were killed in a garment factory in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. The factory lacked emergency exits, and its owner said only three floors of the eight-story building were legally built.

 

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • news_popefrancis.jpg Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

    Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity's most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted many Christians.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_24restaurants.jpg Mayor's menu filled up: One day, 24 restaurants

    Jenkintown (Pa.) Mayor Ed Foley, in a gut-busting campaign to draw attention to the tiny borough's varied restaurant scene, set out to visit all 24 of them on Saturday, starting with a pre-dawn visit to IHOP.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_ukraine.jpg US weighing military exercises in Eastern Europe

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_skoreaferry.jpg 10 more bodies found inside sunken ferry by divers

    Divers recovered 13 bodies from inside a ferry that sank off South Korea, pushing the confirmed death toll to 46, officials said Sunday. The discovery came after rescuers finally gained access to the inside of the ship following three days of failure and frustration caused by strong currents and bad visibility due to inclement weather.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • spt_flanagan.jpg Hometown favorite wants to win Boston Marathon, for Boston

    Shalane Flanagan grew up in nearby Marblehead with a reverence for the Boston Marathon and dreamed, like many locals and foreign runners alike, that she would win the race someday. Her goal has changed now.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_felumlee.jpg Ohio couple married 70 years die 15 hours apart

    A couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died 15 hours apart.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_missingboymass.jpg Body found by highway is missing Massachusetts boy

    The body of a small boy apparently cast off the side of a highway has been confirmed as a missing 5-year-old, authorities said Saturday.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_mounteverest.jpg 13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche

    Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_malaysiaairlines.jpg Sub search for missing jet to be finished within a week

    A robotic submarine looking for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is expected to finish searching a patch of the Indian Ocean seabed within a week after so far coming up empty, and the search area may be expanded after that, officials said Saturday.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_bostonofficerslain.jpg MIT honors officer slain after Boston Marathon bombings

    Like many other youngsters, Sean Collier wanted to be a police officer. Unlike most, he brought that dream to life — and then died doing it, becoming a central character in the gripping hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium