* 228 dead, 1,000 injured, toll could go much higher
* Cracks found in building day before collapse - police,
* Canada's Loblaw, UK's Primark say their garment suppliers
By Serajul Quadir and Ruma Paul
SAVAR, Bangladesh, April 25 Survivors from a
garment factory that collapsed in Bangladesh killing at least
228 people described on Thursday a deafening bang and tremors
before the eight-floor building crashed down under them.
Many more of the mostly female workers were still feared
trapped in the rubble more than 24 hours after the disaster,
which has brought renewed attention to Western firms who use
Bangladesh as a source of low cost goods.
In the evening, local residents were still pulling survivors
and bodies from the wreckage of the Rana Plaza building in the
commercial suburb of Savar, 30 km (20 miles) outside the capital
Dhaka, using crowbars and their bare hands in sweltering heat.
More than 1,000 people were injured.
"I thought there was an earthquake," said Shirin Akhter, 22,
who was starting her day at the New Wave Style workshop six
floors up when the complex crumbled. Akhter was trapped for
hours before breaking through a wall. She says her monthly wage
Relatives identified their dead among rows of corpses
wrapped in white cloth in a nearby school field.
Police said the owner of the building, local politician
Mohammed Sohel Rana, was told of dangerous cracks on Tuesday.
While a bank in the building closed on Wednesday, the
factories told their workers there was no danger, industry
officials said. Rana is now on the run, according to police.
"An unspecified number of victims are still trapped," said
Mizanur Rahman, a rescue worker with the fire brigade, as he
clambered over the wreckage. "We can't be certain of getting
them all out alive. We are losing a bit of hope."
Dhaka's district police chief Habibur Rahman said the death
toll could rise further.
DAY OF MOURNING
The government declared a national day of mourning and flags
were flown half mast at all official buildings.
Dhaka city development authority had filed a case against
the building's owner for faulty construction, police chief
Rahman said. It filed another case against the owner and the
five garments factories for causing unlawful death.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association
(BGMEA) President Mohammad Atiqul Islam said there were 3,122
workers in the factories on Wednesday. He said that local
officials had indicated the cracks the day before.
"We asked the garment owners to keep it closed," Islam said.
Rana had told proprietors of the building's five garment
factories that the cracks were not dangerous, Islam added.
"After getting the green signal from the plaza owner all the
garment factories opened," he said.
More than 1,000 textile workers besieged the BGMEA offices
on Thursday, pelting it with stones and clashing with riot
police, TV channels showed. The workers demanded all garment
factories be shut and the owners harshly punished for accidents.
Hundreds of students donated blood at a clinic in Savar
after doctors at Dhaka hospitals said they couldn't cope with
the number of victims.
Firefighters and troops carried young women survivors of the
accident on stretchers, some apparently semi-conscious.
Mohammad Mosharraf, who was rescued on Thursday after 26
hours, said he had been hit on the head by something heavy and
knocked unconscious when the building came down.
"When I regain my sense I found another four colleagues are
also trapped under the debris of the building," he told Reuters.
"We desperately tried to shout for someone to rescue us.
Initially we didn't receive any response, but we moved to
another part of the floor and found some light and heard
The Rana Plaza building collapse follows a fire at the
Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that killed
112 people in November and another incident at a factory in
January in which seven people died, compounding concerns about
worker safety and low wages in Bangladesh.
Entry level wages in these factories start at 14 cents an
hour, said Charles Kernaghan, with the Institute for Global
Labour and Human Rights.
UK clothing retailer Primark, which has 257 stores across
Europe and is a unit of Associated British Foods,
confirmed that one of its suppliers occupied the second floor of
the building. Danish retailer PWT Group, which owns the Texman
brand, said it used a factory in the building for seven years.
"We check the working conditions at the factory, but we are
not construction engineers. We cannot be held responsible for
how they build their factories," PWT director Ole Koch said.
British clothing retailer Matalan said it used to be
supplied by one of the factories at the complex but had no
current production there.
Canada's Loblaw, a unit of food processing and distribution
firm George Weston Ltd, said one factory made a small
number of "Joe Fresh" apparel items for the company.
Primark, Loblaw and PWT operate under codes of conduct aimed
at ensuring products are made in good working conditions.
Documents including order sheets and cutting plans obtained
by Reuters appeared to show that other major clothing brands
such as Benetton had used suppliers in the building in the last
year. A Benetton spokesman said none of the factories were
suppliers to the company. Spain's Mango said it had an
unfulfilled sample order with Phantom Apparel, at the plaza.
About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh's garment
industry, making it the world's second-largest apparel exporter.
The bulk of exports - 60 percent - go to Europe. The United
States takes 23 percent and 5 percent go to Canada.
Following the Tazreen fire, giant U.S. retailer Wal-Mart
Stores Inc. said it would take steps to alleviate safety
concerns, while Gap Inc. announced a four-step
Wal-Mart said it had not determined whether a factory in the
building that collapsed was producing goods for the company.
Edward Hertzman, a sourcing agent based in New York who also
publishes trade magazine Sourcing Journal, said pressure from
U.S. retailers to keep a lid on costs continued to foster unsafe
Hertzman, whose trade publication has offices in Bangladesh,
said New Wave Bottoms Ltd occupied the second floor, Phantom
Apparels Ltd the third, Phantom Tack Ltd the fourth and Ethar
Textile Ltd the fifth.
The New Wave website listed 27 main buyers, including firms
from Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Canada
and the United States.