Over 100 killed as Bangladesh building collapses
Over 100 killed as Bangladesh building collapses
Only the ground floor of the eight-story Rana Plaza in Savar town just outside the capital Dhaka remained intact when the block — which one minister said was illegally constructed — imploded at about 9 a.m. (0300 GMT).
Armed with concrete cutters and cranes, hundreds of fire service and army rescue workers struggled in the hope of finding more survivors in the mountain of concrete and mangled steel, which resembled the aftermath of an earthquake.
Corpses and the injured were pulled from the higher reaches of the pile of flattened floors via makeshift slides made from cloth that just hours earlier was being cut into shirts and trousers for export to Western markets.
“The whole building collapsed like a pancake within minutes. Most workers did not have any chance to escape,” national fire department chief Ahmed Ali told AFP. “Many people are still trapped.”
Fire fighters and soldiers cut through the building’s collapsed sixth floor and managed to rescue 20 people eight hours after the accident, he said.
“We will continue searching for survivors through the night, for as long as it takes,” he said.
Deputy chief of Dhaka police A.B.M Masud Hossain told AFP that at least 113 people have died in the disaster. “But the toll will be higher because some relatives took bodies without informing police,” he said.
The cries of people inside the rubble begging for rescue could be heard as thousands of relatives waited anxiously nearby, some chanting the name of Allah.
“Save us please!” a woman worker cried from inside. “We’re 30 people here. Please save us.”
Survivors complained that the building had developed cracks on Tuesday evening, triggering an evacuation, but they had been ordered back to the production lines.
“The managers forced us to rejoin and just one hour after we entered the factory the building collapsed with a huge noise,” said a 24-year-old worker who gave her first name as Mousumi.
Mustafizur Rahman, head of a police unit created to handle industrial troubles, told reporters the owners, who have gone into hiding, ignored a warning not to open their factories.
“Industrial police told the factory owners not to open their plants. The owners ignored our call and opened their factories anyway,” he said.
Two of the factories in the building — New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms — were making clothing for retailers Mango of Spain and Benetton of Italy, according to campaign group Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity.
A spokesman for Benetton however said they “are not suppliers for Benetton.”
A spokeswoman for Mango, Marta Soler Morera, told AFP by e-mail that it did not have any suppliers at the building, “although we did have contacts with one of them to produce a test production, as we do with several suppliers.”
Tessel Pauli, a spokeswoman for the Amsterdam-based Clean Clothes Campaign, said the accident was “symptomatic” of problems in Bangladesh where foreign buyers often overlook safety problems in their hunt for higher profits.
The accident will likely pile more pressure on the bargain-hunters as the disaster came just months after a blaze in the Tazreen factory, which was making apparel for Walmart and others, left 111 people dead.
In the wake of that tragedy, the US threatened to cut some duty-free facilities for Bangladeshi products.
The Muslim-majority country has the second-biggest clothing industry in the world, but it is plagued by regular accidents and demonstrations by workers demanding better wages and working conditions.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a national day of mourning for Thursday when flags will fly at half-mast in memory of the victims.
Hiralal Roy, a senior emergency ward doctor at the nearby Enam Hospital where victims were being taken, said at least 1,000 injured people had been treated at the hospital.
“The toll will rise as the condition of some of the injured was critical,” he told AFP, adding the hospital had appealed for emergency blood donations.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said five factories were inside the building and together they employed around 3,000 workers.
Local media said the owner of the building was a local youth wing chief of the ruling party. He was rescued alive from the rubble.
Building collapses are relatively common in Bangladesh as developers often flout construction regulations when erecting multi-story structures.
More than 70 people were killed when a multi-story garment factory collapsed in the Savar area in 2005.
Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises
- More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
- A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people
KOCHI: Helicopters airlifted stranded families from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc Thursday to the Indian state of Kerala where about 100 people are feared dead.
Hundreds of extra troops were deployed in the southern state, a major tourist hotspot, as the government issued a “red alert” over the region’s worst floods in decades.
State authorities said the confirmed death toll was 72 but officials and media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead Thursday in landslides and as rivers burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were reported dead and 15 others, including a three-month-old infant, were trapped inside three houses hit by a landslide near an irrigation dam in Malappuram district, the Hindu newspaper said.
Authorities said many people were trapped inside their houses. More than 60,000 people have sought refuge in relief camps.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a Kerala state disaster management official told AFP.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage has been particularly severe. Floods have also caused havoc in other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Some 540 army, navy and air forces reinforcements were sent to Kerala on Thursday to join the rescue effort.
The army said it had rescued scores of people with helicopters sent to the region. Defense forces and government boats were also used in an increasingly desperate rescue operation.
Authorities appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.
People could be seen paddling lifeboats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.
Army helicopters rescued families but also dropped food packets and drinking water to some of the worst-affected districts.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and hundreds of homes lost.
It has ordered the opening of gates at 34 dams and reservoirs where water levels had reached danger levels.
Cars and livestock washed away in the floods were seen on Indian television, and men and women wading through chest-high waters that had gushed into their homes.
Many used social media to send rooftop distress calls, some with video.
Greeta Mathew pleaded for help for her family in a Twitter message.
“Anybody reading this,PLZ HELP. My relatives are stuck on the upper floor of house with an 8 months pregnant lady, in Edayaranmula, Pathanamthitta dist. All rescue control rooms’ numbers busy. No rescue team reached yet. No contact with family since last evening,” she said.
North and central Kerala has been worst hit by the floods but all 14 of the state’s districts have been put on alert as heavy rain is predicted for several days.
In the main city of Kochi, the international airport was closed until at least Saturday because of flooding. Departures were canceled while incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in India.
All public transport has been stopped with many buses left abandoned in the road.
Elsewhere, eight people were swept away on Wednesday after a sudden water surge hit a popular picnic in Madhya Pradesh state. Another 45 stranded were rescued on Thursday by police.