DHAKA: At least 82 people have died and 700 are injured after an eight-story building housing several garment factories collapsed on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital on Wednesday, a doctor said.
Only the ground floor of the Rana Plaza in the town of Savar outside Dhaka, which also housed a bank branch, remained intact when the incident occurred at about 9 a.m. (4 a.m. in Manila), officials said.
“The death toll is now 82. At least 700 people have also been treated at the hospital,” Hiralal Roy, a senior emergency ward doctor at the nearby Enam hospital where victims are being transferred, said.
Armed with concrete cutters and cranes, hundreds of fire service and army rescue workers were digging through rubble to pull out trapped people, while many onlookers also joined the effort using their bare hands.
Local police chief M. Asaduzzaman said that the situation was “disastrous and at least 100 people are feared trapped”.
Litu Ahmed, an official at the nearby Enam Medical College, told Agence France-Presse that at least 35 people had been admitted to the hospital with injuries while another 150 had received first aid without being admitted.
“I was in the cutting section of the garment factory and suddenly we heard a huge noise and the building collapsed within a few minutes,” a garment worker told private Somoy TV.
“I removed the rubble and came out with two other workers. But at least 30 other workers in my cutting section were still unaccounted for,” he said.
The Somoy channel reported that cracks had appeared at the building on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a stampede from panicked workers that left 10 people injured. Agence France-Presse was unable to immediately confirm the report.
“Many people are feared dead,” Maj. Zehadul Islam, a director of the fire department, told Agence France-Pressse, adding that the military had been called in to help the rescue effort.
Building collapses are common in impoverished Bangladesh as developers often flout the government’s construction code in the building of multi-story buildings.
More than 70 people were killed after a multi-story garment factory collapsed in the same area in 2005. In November, at least 13 people were killed after an under-construction flyover fell in the port city of Chittagong.
Bangladesh has the second-biggest garment industry in the world, providing cheap clothes for major Western brands and retailers which benefit from its abundant low-cost labor. But the industry is plagued by regular accidents and frequent demonstrations from workers demanding better wages and working conditions.
In November, a fire at a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka killed 111 workers in the industry’s worst accident.