Western firms feel the heat as Bangla toll crosses 300

Global brands rejected safety plans; violent protests in Dhaka

Written by New York Times | Dhaka | Published: April 27, 2013 1:17:51 am

JULFIKAR ALI MANIK,STEVEN GREENHOUSE & JIM YARDLEY

As the toll crossed 300,the owner of the collapsed building,Rana Plaza,was in hiding,and police and industry leaders were blaming him for offering false assurances to factory bosses that the structure was sound,leading to the decision to allow 3,000 workers return to their jobs.

Pressure continued to build on Western companies that had promised after a deadly fire in November to take steps to ensure safety of Bangladeshi factories that make the goods they sell. Activists combing through the rubble here have already discovered labels and documents linking the factories to major European and American brands,like Children’s Place,Benetton,Cato Fashions,Mango and others.

PVH,the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger,and Tchibo,a German retailer,have endorsed a plan in which Western retailers would finance fire safety efforts and structural upgrades in Bangladeshi factories — although they first want other companies to sign on.

Meanwhile,thousands of garment workers rampaged through industrial areas of the capital of Bangladesh on Friday,smashing vehicles with bamboo poles and setting fire to at least two factories in violent protests.

In Narayanganj,an industrial district near the capital,protesters vandalized at least five garment factories and clashed with the police. Ten people were injured and nearly two dozen workers were arrested on vandalism charges.

A special government committee has been appointed to investigate the accident. Questions are already arising about why more than 3,000 employees were working on the day of the collapse despite police officials discovering cracks a day earlier and asking bosses to halt all work. “I wouldn’t call it an accident,” the government’s information minister,Hasanul Haque Inu,told Bangladeshi journalists. “I would say it’s a murder.”

At the scene,thousands of people gathered around the collapsed building,as family members of missing workers volunteered in the search. Blood collections were under way across Dhaka. Rescue teams continued searching Friday,as they raced against time to rescue those still trapped in the rubble.

Two infants born under debris,rescued

SAVAR: Two infants,born under the debris of the eight-storey commercial building which collapsed here,were miraculously rescued along with their mothers,a Bangladeshi fire official said Friday.

According to the official,pregnant women were among the several garment factory workers trapped under the concrete ruins of the Rana Plaza in Dhaka’s suburb. “Two infants have been reported to be born under the debris. They along with their mothers were among the 2,348 people rescued,” he said.

Garment factories in Bangladesh hire predominantly female workers,and many pregnant workers are reported to be among those still trapped under the debris. PTI

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