Bangladesh's worst industrial tragedy death toll hits 501

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-5-3 15:55:32

The death toll from last week's building collapse in Savar on the outskirts of Bangladesh's capital Dhaka climbed to 501 on Friday morning.

Ten days into the Bangladesh's worst industrial tragedy, hundreds of relatives, who are still running from one place to another in desperate search for their loved ones as on the first day, say scores of people were still unaccounted for when the rescuers also believed that there are many more bodies in the wreckage.

Officials had earlier said rescuers have pulled alive more than 2,437 people after eight-storey building Rana Plaza crumbled like a pack of cards on April 24 at about 8:30 am local time.

"The death toll from the building collapse has climbed to 501 including 24 bodies which were recovered on Friday morning," a police official told Xinhua Friday morning.

The official who preferred to be unnamed as he is not authorized to talk to media said at least 40 bodies were pulled out of the collapsed building until Friday morning since Thursday night.

He said rescuers continued their relentless efforts to pull out manually many more bodies which were spotted on Friday morning.

Of the bodies, he said 393 have so far been handed over to their relatives.

Rescuers already left the hope of finding any more survivor but they do believe that there might have many more bodies in the wreckage of the collapsed building when plenty of relatives are keenly awaiting at the site, saying they won't leave until they had received the bodies.

Many more bodies are being spotted as the rescuers with cranes and other heavy equipment have been removing huge concrete slabs and chunks of debris since April 28.

Bangladesh authorities refrained from deploying heavy machinery amid concern that tearing chunks from the building might jeopardize the safety of anyone clinging to life beneath the sandwiched floors of the building.

The authorities later expedited rescue operation with deployment of heavy machinery as the slow pace of rescue work in the first few days has created huge questions and wide spread rumors.

Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, general officer of command of Bangladesh Army's Ninth Infantry Division, has refuted an allegation that many bodies were secretly being taken away to lower the number of death toll.

"Don't pay heed to any rumor. We won't leave the site until we retrieve the last body," the rescue operation leader told reporters at a press briefing Thursday but could not tell when the rescue operation would end.

He blamed the vested interest groups for spreading rumors which were disrupting the rescue efforts.

How many people still remain missing is a big question which officials still cannot answer at all. All they can say is they do not have the exact number.

"The rescue operation would have been easier had we had a list of the people working on different floors," Brigadier General Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence, was quoted as saying in a report of The Daily Star Friday.

According to the report, Zillur Rahman, additional deputy commissioner of Dhaka, Thursday said the authorities had made the list of 149 missing people three days ago, but stopped updating it as relatives did not report to them after receiving the bodies of their loved ones.

Workers alleged that the owners of the five factories and the building, who are now behind the bars, forced them to join their respective workplaces on Wednesday morning.

Following the cracks which were detected just one day before the man-made disaster, the workers were evacuated and the garments authorities declared a leave for Tuesday.

But nobody has bothered about the cracks when officials of the factories forced the workers on the next morning to join workplaces in the building.

According to the sources, almost all the death victims are workers of the five factories -- Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms -- which make clothing for many major global brands.

Six floors of the building housed the five garment factories which, according to the months-old data of the owners' association, employed nearly 3,122 workers, mostly of them women. Furthermore, there were also a bank's branch and hundreds of shops inside.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week told the parliament that she has ordered to take stern action against those responsible for all these deaths.

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