06/04/2015, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Rana Plaza collapse: former owner and 41 others charged with causing wrongful death

by Sumon Corraya
Two years after the disaster that killed more than 1,000 people, police submitted charge sheets against Sohel Rana for causing death "due to negligence". The investigation was slowed down by the need to interview the large number of survivors and victims’ families. After initially rejecting responsibility, the Benetton Group will compensate the victims.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Police in Bangladesh have charged Sohel Rana, owner of the Rana Plaza, and 41 other people, in connection with the garment-factory complex collapse in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people.

On Monday, two years after the event, prosecutors submitted charge sheets at the Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court,

Police in Savar (Dhaka District) had launched an investigation for “wrongful death” due to negligence against Rana and 21 other firms. Some 42 individuals were charged with murder.

When asked about the delay in laying charges, the chief inspector said that the investigation had been slow because of the large number of people who had to be interviewed, including survivors and victims’ families.

In addition, in September 2014, he asked the government for authorisation to proceed against a number of public officials, which only came after several months.

The collapse of Rana Plaza is one of the worst industrial accidents in history. Officially, 1,136 were killed, 1,169 injured and 2,458 people pulled from the rubble.

The eight-storey Rana Plaza complex had been declared unsafe and unfit for use because it stood on soft soil.

More than 3,000 people worked in the building. Except for an NGO, company bosses forced employees to go to work even when warnings were issued about its lack of safety.

The building collapsed on 24 April 2013, but so far, only four people have been arrested in connection with the disaster.

Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter after China. Poor labour practices and low safety standards have plagued the sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s foreign earnings.

At least 4 million Bangladeshis work in the sector, with wages that can reach 38 dollars per month.

After the Rana Plaza disaster, more than 200 plants have closed due to tighter government controls, with the net loss of 150,000 jobs.

The Rana Plaza housed five garment factories – suppliers to large retail chains like Benetton, Primark and Joe Fresh.

Last February, Benetton said that it would compensate disaster victims although it did not give any figures. Initially, the Italian group had rejected any responsibility for the tragedy.

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