An eight-story building collapsed Wednesday morning in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, killing at least 70 and injuring scores more. And officials fear that hundreds may still be trapped in the rubble. As the New York Times described it:
Photographs showed rescue workers in hard hats climbing ladders into the destroyed structure, even as hundreds of people crowded outside, waiting to see if survivors could be pulled from the wreckage.
The collapse comes just five months after a fire at a different factory killed at least 112 garment workers; it has reignited a debate over the rights of garment workers the country over.
International brands like Walmart, Tommy Hilfiger, Sears and H&M produce clothes here, in part because it's so cheap. Bangladesh has the lowest minimum wage for garment workers in the world, set at just $37 a month.
Proponents say these sweatshops have brought the Bangladeshi economy to life. But labor rights activists charge their are too few protections for workers. Unions are actively discouraged -- a union organizer was tortured and murdered last month; his death remains unsolved. And conditions in many factories are downright dangerous.
As the Times reports:
Alonzo Suson, country director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, a labor rights group, said Wednesday’s accident illustrated the repeated failure of government inspectors to ensure that safety standards were met.
“It is substandard construction, shortcut construction,” Mr. Suson said. “There was already a crack in the building.”
Below, scenes from the factory, via Reuters.