DHAKA, Bangladesh — Ten days after the horrifying collapse of a garment-factory building, life has become still more gruesome for crews working to recover bodies at the site. The death toll rose to 547 on Saturday and the stench of decaying flesh was sickening evidence that the work is not yet done.
Rescue workers said some bodies have deteriorated so badly that they have found bones without flesh. Since the April 24 collapse in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, high temperatures have generally been 90 degrees or above, and lows have rarely dipped below 80.
“The bodies are smelling. We are using air freshener to work here,” said Mohibul Alam, a firefighter at the collapse scene. The odor of decay is overpowering just the same.
Bodies have decomposed beyond recognition, Alam said, but he added that some could still be identified because the victims’ identification cards were found with them.
Some of the victims who had been closest to escaping appear to be among the last to be recovered. Only now have rescuers dug deep enough, using cranes and other equipment, to approach the stairs of the ground floor.
The official death toll from the collapse reached 547 Saturday and was expected to climb. The official number of missing has been 149 since Wednesday, though unofficial estimates are higher.
The disaster is likely the worst garment-factory accident ever, and there have been few industrial accidents of any kind with a higher death toll. It surpassed long-ago garment-industry disasters such as New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in 1911, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that same year that killed 112.
Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry supplies retailers around the world and accounts for about 80 percent of the impoverished country’s exports. The collapse has raised strong doubts about retailers’ claims that they could ensure worker safety through self-regulation.