The Herald Bulletin

Overnight 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
  • news_detroitsunset.jpg Detroit still needs $350M from state lawmakers

    Pressure was building Wednesday for Michigan lawmakers to commit $350 million to Detroit pensions, a day after the city reached tentative agreements with pension funds and a retiree group to reduce payouts.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - HB0417 - Sperry Funeral - 10.jpg Family, friends bid farewell to Jesse Sperry

    The fussing of 10-day-old Autumn Marie Sperry seemed to coincide with the beginning of the funeral service for her father, Jesse Sperry, whose body rested just a few feet away. More than 200 friends and family members gathered at Edgewood Baptist Church this afternoon to pay their respects to Jesse, who was killed April 6 in a traffic accident on Indiana 32.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • news_malaysiaplanesearch.jpg Sub makes second dive to search for Malaysian plane

    As a robotic submarine dived into the ocean to look for lost Flight 370, angry Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference meeting Wednesday to protest the Malaysian government for not addressing them in person.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3 APTOPIX Police Conver_Unde-1.jpg Feds: Boston bombing suspect not entitled to '11 murder file

    Federal prosecutors have told a judge they have no evidence that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev knew about his brother's alleged role in a triple slaying in Waltham two years before the bombings.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine

    Authorities say a toddler has been reunited with his mother after employees found him playing inside a claw crane machine at a Nebraska bowling alley.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boston police safely blow up suspicious backpacks

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city's resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • 292 missing, 4 dead in South Korea ferry disaster

    A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.

    April 16, 2014

  • Leaders await decision on Indiana Plan expansion

    Two of the state's top Republican lawmakers said Tuesday that they would like to see the federal government sign off on an expansion of Medicaid through the state's health care plan for low-income residents, but they added that they have little idea how soon that could happen.

    April 16, 2014

  • Former Indy radio personality accused of defrauding family members in Madison County A former Indianapolis radio personality was arrested Monday, suspected of stealing the identities of four Madison County family members over a four-year span.

    April 16, 2014

  • Police: GPS helped solve, didn't deter killings

    GPS technology helped police link two convicted sex offenders to the rapes and killings of at least four women in California, but the mother of one victim said Tuesday that the monitoring system should have done more to prevent the crimes in the first place.

    April 15, 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 often would you ride an express bus to Indianapolis?

Every work day
Once or twice a week
Occasionally
I'll stick to driving my car, thank you
     View Results