Death Toll Reaches over 400 in Bangladesh Factory Collapse
April, 29 2013 Share
Death toll is now at 408. Police report that 1,000 Rana Plaza factory workers have been registered as missing. While there is almost zero hope that anyone remains alive, the government has ordered recovery workers to move slowly and carefully, so as to bring the victims’ bodies out intact.
Hundreds of desperate parents continue to search for their children, many of them in their teens and 20s, who worked sewing garments in the five factories housed on the Rana Plaza building’s upper floors. The bodies of the dead are being brought to a local high school in Savar where families come to search for their loved ones.
A Worker Describes the Collapse of Rana Plaza
Jannat worked in the quality control section of the New Wave Style factory:
“On Wednesday morning, we refused to enter the factory, as on Tuesday we discovered large cracks in the factory walls. Managers at the factories threatened us saying they would withhold our [month’s] wages if we did not agree to work.
“The owner of Rana Plaza along with gang members holding sticks were standing in front of the main entrance gate threatening that they would beat us with sticks and break our bones if we didn’t work that morning. We were frightened and had no choice but to go in to work.
“We had no choice. I started working at 8:00 a.m. at the New Wave Style factory on the 7th floor. All of a sudden, after an hour, the power went off. There was a big generator on the floor. As soon as the generator was switched on the building started to vibrate and shake, and in one or two minutes, there was a huge bang.
“My supervisor was standing beside me at that moment. Suddenly we saw our floor was collapsing, going doing, and falling apart very fast.
“In a minute, I was knocked down in a dark place. I hurt my foot. I could hardly see anything, but I heard the groaning of other workers. I tried to reach out to touch where I was and felt a soft cotton bag on one side and a concrete pillar on the other side. I could hardly move my body as rubble was everywhere. I was suffocating. There was no air and we were trapped in darkness.
“I was thirsty, but there was no water. I knew I was going to die. I was crying and praying for help. It was like hell. I was thinking about my two-year-old daughter, and who would take care of her after I died. I was pinned down and nobody came to rescue me until late afternoon. The rescuers started cutting through the iron rods and got us out of the death trap around 5 p.m. I never thought that I would ever see the light of day again. I got a new second life, like a re-birth. I have decided that I will never again work in a garment factory. I came so close to death. Thank God. He saved my life. But so many of my co-workers have been killed, or paralyzed, or are missing."
A Union Leader in Bangladesh
Rafiqul Islam Sujan, President
“Workers have no control over their lives”
“Workers of the five factories refused to work on Wednesday [April 24], but the garment owners, along with Rana Plaza’s owner forced thousands of workers to enter the building despite the high risk of more damage. Workers have no control over their lives, as they have no voice to express their concerns to the bosses. In Bangladesh, garment owners decide when the ‘law’ is. The Bangladeshi Constitution and labor laws mean nothing! It is the workers who have to pay the ultimate price with their lives, as the bosses forced the workers to enter the factory despite clear danger.
If an independent trade union had been allowed to form at Rana Plaza, the 400 or more workers who were murdered would still be alive. A union could have saved the lives of these workers by bargaining with management, explaining that the visible risks at Rana Plaza were not worth taking a chance—not for the workers or for management.”
Charles Kernaghan, Director
“It is long overdue that the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia and other countries stop relying upon so-called ‘corporate codes of conduct’ that are never enforced. Workers must be guaranteed their legal right to organize independent unions, to bargain collectively and to have a contract that includes decent working conditions and a prohibition of child labor. Until workers are afforded their legal labor rights, nothing will change, and the list of tragedies will continue to grow.”
|Arrests, as Rescue Efforts Continue|
* Rana Plaza’s owner, Sohel Rana, was arrested on Sunday as he attempted to flee to India. His bank accounts have been frozen.
* Owners of two of the garment factories housed in Rana Plaza, Bazius Samad (owner of the New Wave garment factories) and Aminul Islam (Phantom Apparels) have also been arrested for forcing well over 3,000 workers (80 percent of them women) to enter the factories on Wednesday morning, April 24, despite visible and dangerous cracks in the exterior walls of the Rana Plaza building. The workers were forced to enter work at 8:00 a.m. The building collapsed just one hour later, at 9:00 a.m.
Two engineers of the Savar Municipality have also been arrested, accused of accepting bribes from Rana Plaza’s owner to allow him to illegally build four additional floors on top of the four for which there was a permit.
* To date, 2,370 workers escaped or have been rescued alive from Rana Plaza. Hundreds have been admitted to area hospitals.
* As of Friday, April 26, workers buried in the rubble were crying out, “We want to live. Please get us out of the wreckage, even cutting off our legs and arms.”
* Two women who worked on the third floor have given birth. They remain trapped. One of the babies is confirmed to have died. Clearly these women were denied maternity leave.
* There is a new push by workers and their attorneys for the arrest of the owner of the Tazreen Garment factory, Delwar Hossain. On November 24, 2012, 112 workers were killed, trapped behind locked gates, when fire broke out at the Tazreen factory.
Labels confirmed to be in Rana Plaza factories
[as of 4/28/2013]
- Joe Fresh, owned by Loblaws Inc. of Ontario, Canada (custom records and labels found on site)
- Benneton (labels found on site)
- The Childrens Place (custom records)
- Cato Corp (custom records)
- Irish company, Primark’s “Denim Co” “Cedar wood State” and others (labels found on site)
- Papaya Denim, owned by Matalan in the UK (labels found on site)
- “Free Style Baby” sold at Spanish retail chain “El Corte Ingles” (labels found on site)
- “European Project owned by Manifattura Corona (Italy) (labels found on site)
- Velilla – Spanish work clothing company (labels found on site)
List of the Rana Plaza Factories
- New Wave Style
Managing Director, Bazius Samad (Adnan)
- New Wave Bottoms, Ltd
Chairman, Bazius Samad (Adnan)
- New Wave Apparel
Director, Bazius Samad (Adnan)
- Phantom Tac Limited
Chairman, Md. Aminul Islam
- Phantom Apparels
Chairman, Md. Aminul Islam