May 3, 2013

Bangladesh official: Disaster's impact not 'really serious'

Farid Hossain and Julhas Alam / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A woman grieves after finding her sister's body at a school turned makeshift morgue where family members come to identify and claim bodies found in the garment factory building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh.

AP

Rana called Khan to inspect the building after it developed cracks on April 23, local media reported. That night Khan appeared on a private television station saying that after his inspection he told Rana to evacuate the building because it was not safe.

Khan, a former engineer at Jahangirnagar University near Savar, said he told government engineers the building needed to be examined further.

Police ordered the building evacuated, but witnesses say Rana told people gathered outside the next morning that the building was safe and that garment factory managers told their workers to go inside. It collapsed hours later.

Authorities also suspended the mayor of Savar, Mohammad Refatullah, for alleged negligence, said Abu Alam, a top official of the local government ministry.

Alam said an official investigation has found that the mayor ignored rules in approving the design and layout of the doomed building. The mayor is from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which has criticized his suspension as politically motivated.

The government also effectively suspended Kabir Hossain Sardar, the top government administrator at Savar, following reports that he declared the building safe after inspecting the cracks a day before the collapse. Sardar had close links with Rana. Alam said the government was taking action against everyone involved with Rana and his building.

Rana himself was arrested earlier and is expected to be charged with negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work, crimes punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail. Authorities have not said if more serious crimes will be added.

The Bangladesh High Court has ordered the government to confiscate Rana's property and freeze the assets of the owners of the factories in Rana Plaza so the money can be used to pay the salaries of their workers.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms.

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