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Bodies Still Being Retrieved From Rubble Of Bangaldesh Building

posted 7 May 2013, 08:21 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 7 May 2013, 08:22 ]

Death toll reaches 711 as more bodies are retrieved from collapsed building in Dhaka. Over 550 of the bodies have been identified and taken by grieving relatives for funerals.

DHAKABANGLADESH (MAY 7, 2013) (REUTERS) -  The death toll in the Bangladesh garment factory collapse on Tuesday (May 7) passed 700 and is likely to increase further as many more bodies are feared trapped under the rubble of the illegally constructed high-rise.

The control room set up by the Bangladesh army near the wrecked site put the figure at 711 around 2 pm on Tuesday. So far 551 bodies have been handed back to relatives for funerals.

The nine-storey Rana Plaza caved in on April 24 with around 3,500 people inside. Most of the victims were readymade garment (RMG) workers employed at the five RMG units based in the building. The factories were used to produce products for renowned western brands.

Bangladesh has emerged as the second largest exporter of readymade garments after China thanks to the duty-free access offered by western countries. International retailers are attracted to Bangladesh by cheap labour costs, but to keep the production cost low, the RMG units are ignoring safety norms.

Last month's building collapse has again raised questions about working conditions in the country's garment factories. It was the third such accident in the past six months.

Bangladesh's exports rose nearly 10 percent in April to $2.08 billion from a year earlier, rising for a 10th month, thanks to stronger clothing sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Tuesday.

But industrial accidents have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages, and could taint the reputation of the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.

Total exports in the first three quarters of Bangladesh's July-June financial year were $19.70 billion, compared with $17.89 billion over the same period the previous year. Garment exports totalled $17.31 billion for the 10 months that ended in April, 11.5 percent more than a year earlier.

Duty-free access offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turnBangladesh's garment exports into a $19 billion-a-year industry, with 60 percent of clothes going to Europe.

The European Union, which gives preferential access to Bangladeshi garments, had threatened punitive measures in order to press Dhaka to improve worker safety standards after the collapse of the illegally built factory.

About 4 million people, most of them women, work in Bangladesh's garment industry, making it the world's second-largest apparel exporter after China.

The garments trade had already been in the spotlight since a factory fire that killed at least 112 people in November.

Fire service officials said it would take another week to complete the rescue operation.