April 29, 2013

Owner of collapsed building may face 7 years in prison

Chris Blake and Farid Hossain / The Associated Press

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Workers and firefighters prepare to dislodge debris and the fallen ceiling of the garment factory building that collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh. Rescue workers gave up hopes of finding any more survivors in the remains of the building that collapsed five days ago, and began using heavy machinery on Monday to dislodge the rubble and look for bodies.

AP

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Rescue and recovery personnel prepare to dislodge the ceiling of the garment factory building that collapsed on Wednesday in Savar, Bangladesh,

AP

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A garment manufacturers' group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside when it fell.

The death toll surpassed a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards. But since then, very little has changed in Bangladesh.

The collapse and previous disasters in garment factories have focused attention on the poor working conditions of workers who toil for as little as $38 a month to produce clothing for top international brands.

"I think it is a wakeup call for the nation, a wakeup call for the industry and for the trade unions," said Shirin Akter, founding president of Karmojibi Nari, a Dhaka-based Bangladeshi group that lobbies for the rights of women in the workplace.

Akter said the priority should now shift to helping those who survived the building collapse but were left severely injured. "How can we protect those who lost parts of their bodies, their legs, their hands?" she said. "How will they be able to work again, come back to their workplace?"

Bangladesh's garment industry was the third-largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy, having grown rapidly in the past decade.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year.

The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers.

Britain's Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza, but many other retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them.

Wal-Mart said none of its clothing had been authorized to be made in the facility, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorized production.

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Additional Photos

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A boy runs past a school turned makeshift morgue with portraits of missing garment factory workers plastered over its walls on Monday.

AP

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Curious onlookers and relatives of missing victims watch from behind a fence as workers start removing pieces of the garment factory building that collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh.

AP

 


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