Toll tops 600 in garment factory collapse in Bangladesh

2013-05-06T00:00:00Z Toll tops 600 in garment factory collapse in BangladeshThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

DHAKA, Bangladesh - More than 600 bodies have been recovered from the garment-factory building that collapsed well over a week ago, police said Sunday as the grim recovery work continued in one of the worst industrial accidents ever.

Police put the death toll Sunday night at 622. Well over 200 bodies have been recovered since Wednesday, when authorities said only 149 people had been listed as missing. The stench of decomposing bodies remains amid the broken concrete of the eight-story Rana Plaza building, and it is anyone's guess how many victims remain to be recovered.

The April 24 disaster is likely the worst garment-factory accident ever, and there have been few industrial accidents of any kind with a higher death toll.

An architect whose firm designed the building said Sunday that it had not been designed to handle heavy industrial equipment, let alone the three floors that were later illegally added. The equipment used by the five garment factories that occupied Rana Plaza included huge generators that were turned on shortly before the building crumbled.

Masood Reza, an architect with Vastukalpa Consultants, said the building was designed in 2004 as a shopping mall and not for any industrial purpose.

"We designed the building to have three stories for shops and another two for offices. I don't know how the additional floors were added and how factories were allowed on the top floors," Reza said.

Government officials have said substandard building materials, combined with the vibration of the heavy machines used by the factories, led to the collapse.

The building developed cracks a day before the collapse, and the owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, called engineer Abdur Razzak Khan to inspect it. Khan appeared on television that night and said he told Rana the building should be evacuated.

Police also issued an evacuation order, but witnesses say that, hours before the collapse, Rana told people the building was safe and garment factory managers told their workers to go inside.

Rana has been arrested 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.

Khan was arrested as well. Police said he worked as a consultant to Rana when the three illegal floors were added.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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