Over 350 dead in 3 building collapses in 8 yrs

The loss of lives has exceeded 350 in the three incidents of building collapse in the country’s export-oriented readymade garment sector in the last eight years.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 25 April 2013, 08:53 AM
Updated : 25 April 2013, 08:53 AM

The people concerned say the incidents are taking place repeatedly due to construction of commercial buildings violating the construction laws and safety norms, culprits remaining unpunished, lacunae in the legal process and inadequate compensations.

The worst factory disaster in the country's history occurred around 8:30am on Wednesday when a nine-storied commercial building Rana Plaza collapsed near the Savar Bus Stand on the outskirts of the capital.

The official death toll rose to 231, roughly after 36 hours since the huge structure collapsed. The final death toll is likely to be much higher.

The ill-fated building accommodated at least five garment factories with nearly 6,000 workers employed there.

Scores of people are still believed to be trapped in the rubble. Rescue workers, led by the Army, are continuing their operation for those trapped under the heaps of concrete.

Workers at Rana Plaza on Tuesday saw the cracks in the huge structure but the authorities allegedly did not take any precautionary steps. Building owner Sohel Rana told reporters that day that there was ‘nothing serious’ in the cracks.

The workers were forcibly brought to work in the garment factories on the fateful morning, many of the wounded have alleged.

Rana, a Senior Joint Convenor of Awami League’s youth front Juba League’s Savar municipality unit, has been on the run since the collapse.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir visited the site and told reporters that the building was not approved by the authorities. He said that stern legal actions would be taken against the people who built the structure defying the codes or laws.

In 2005, at least 85 workers at Spectrum Garments in Savar were killed when the factory’s building had collapsed.

In 2006, another multi-storey Phoenix building in Tejgaon Industrial Area collapsed, killing 21 people and injuring over 50.

Assistant Executive Director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) Syed Sultanuddin Ahmed told bdnews24.com on Thursday that such incidents occur mainly for two reasons.

“Firstly, no measure is being taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents. The issue comes to our notice after the accidents. Then, those responsible for such incidents remain unpunished.”

Referring to the collapse of Spectrum Garments building, he said 45 lawsuits had been filed against the factory owner. “But we’ve no information whether the Spectrum Garments owner was punished or the cases were dissolved.”

Garment Workers Unity Forum President Moshrefa Mishu said, “The owners are spared through an unwritten indemnity in such incidents. Had it been possible to bring the culprits to justice after such incidents and an obligation to provide sufficient compensation to the victims, such incidents wouldn’t have taken place frequently.”

About the Savar building collapse, she said neither the government nor the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures & Exporters Association (BGMEA) could shun responsibility for the incident.

According to BILS statistics, about 700 labours have been killed and over 4,000 injured in different fire incidents in the garment factories across the country between 2002 and 2012.

The number of female workers killed in the incidents of accident and violence at the workplaces has increased nearly three-fold.

BITS data shows that 301 female workers were killed at their workplaces until 2001, while the number rose to 1,126 by the end of 2012.

Sultanuddin said that information about the number of victims were taken from the reports published in the daily newspapers. “In fact, the actual figure will be higher since the accidents that take place in remote areas often do not get coverage in the newspapers.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher