04/26/2013, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Rana Plaza collapse victims compelled by employers

by Nozrul Islam
Inspectors had called for the closure of the nine-storey building that housed five garment factories, a shopping complex and a bank. So far, 304 are known to have died. More than 2,000 people are injured and another 372 are still missing. The factories supplied major retailers, like Britain's Primark.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The fate of the Rana Plaza building turned into a tragedy when thousands of men and women were forced by their employers to come to work in a place inspectors had previously ordered closed for safety reasons.

The nine-storey building in Savar, a district 30 km from Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka, collapsed on Wednesday.

Rescuers have pulled out so far 2,348 people, 304 dead and 2,044 alive albeit injured. Today, another 74 were rescued, but 372 are still missing, including two young women who studied at the Novara Technical School, founded in Dinajpur by the missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

On addition to the five garment factories that supplied major retail chains like Britain's Primark, the Rana Plaza housed a shopping complex, a bank, and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), one of the world's largest NGOs, active in 69,000 villages through the country through its agricultural development projects, micro-credit, schools, hospitals and human rights advocacy.

In an official statement, Italy's Benetton Group denied reports that it sourced from the Rana Plaza factories.

On Tuesday, a day before the collapse, inspectors discovered cracks in the building and declared the building unsafe for use.

The structure was built by a young entrepreneur on a pond after it was drained and filled in violation of building regulations.

Only BRAC did not open on Wednesday telling its employees to stay home, so none of them were killed or injured.

 All other employers forced their workers, mostly young men and women, to come to work or lose back pay and be penalised three-day wages for every day off the job.

Today, as soldiers and police continued digging lowering food and water into holes for those still trapped underneath, hundreds of garment workers blocked roads demanding greater workplace safety.

The Rana Plaza is not however the first tragedy of its kind and it is not likely to be the last. On 16 November 2012, a fire broke out at the Tazreen Fashion factory located in a ten-storey building with only one (locked) emergency exit that prevented workers from fleeing.

 

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