The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Breaking News

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
Breaking News
  • Rivers refuses to apologize to women held captive

    Joan Rivers refuses to apologize for comparing living in her daughter's guest room with the captivity of three women kidnapped in Cleveland.

    April 24, 2014

  • Man gets life in prison in retirement home deaths

    A 67-year-old grandfather was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole in the killing of two women at a Detroit retirement home.

    April 24, 2014

  • Measles off to a fast start, as cases trend up

    Health officials are worried about recent U.S. measles outbreaks that so far have caused more illnesses than at the same point of any year since 1996.

    April 24, 2014

  • NRA seeks universal gun law at national meeting

    With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association's focus at this week's annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country.

    April 24, 2014

  • Costa Rica is demanding US explain 'Cuban Twitter'

    The Costa Rican government says it's still waiting for the Obama administration to explain why it launched the secret "Cuban Twitter" network from inside the Central American nation's borders despite warnings in 2009 that the plan could jeopardize the two countries' diplomatic relations.

    April 24, 2014

  • FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

    The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

    April 24, 2014

  • Singer Kenny Loggins set for Indiana GOP meeting

    Singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins is set to perform at the Indiana Republican Convention in Fort Wayne.

    April 24, 2014

  • Indiana cat missing 5 years reunited with owner

    A cat that went missing five years ago has been reunited with its owner in Indiana thanks to an implanted microchip.

    April 24, 2014

  • High court nixes $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 24, 2014

  • Son eulogizes slain officer mother as 'amazing'

    An Indianapolis police officer slain by her ex-husband, a fellow officer who then killed himself, was eulogized by her son as the "most amazing person" at her funeral Wednesday.

    April 24, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
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
Front page
Poll

How bad is the child abuse and neglect problem in Madison County?

Very bad
Bad
Not that bad
Not sure
     View Results