Bangladesh factory collapse: Death toll passes 800

A Bangladeshi woman holds a photograph of her missing daughter at a makeshift morgue. Picture: AP
A Bangladeshi woman holds a photograph of her missing daughter at a makeshift morgue. Picture: AP
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DOZENS of bodies pulled from the collapsed Bangladesh factory building are so decomposed they have been sent to a laboratory for DNA identification.

The revelation came as the death toll from the 24 April disaster rose to more than 800.

Officials have also begun to pay out wages and benefits to workers who survived the collapse two weeks ago.

Yesterday, police said 803 bodies had been recovered from the debris of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building and more were expected as salvage work continued.

There is no clear indication of how many bodies still remain trapped in the ruins because the exact number of people inside at the time the building collapsed remains unknown. More than 2,500 people were rescued alive. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has previously said 3,122 workers were employed at the five factories housed in the building, but it was not clear how many were there during the packed morning shift, when it fell down like a stack of cards.

Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, a senior military officer at the scene in Savar, outside Dhaka, said the operation to recover bodies could continue for two to three more days before the local authorities were asked to take over the site.

Maj Gen Suhrawardy said they had to send 36 decomposing bodies to Dhaka Medical College Hospital to collect DNA samples because they were beyond ­identification.

Officials expected to send more bodies for testing in the coming days. High temperatures and persistent rain have increased humidity and speeded up the decomposition process.

The disaster is the worst ever in the global clothing sector, far surpassing fires last year that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and 112 in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of clothing workers protested on Tuesday, calling for cash help and the release of their wages. Yesterday, about 2,000 people gathered at a military athletics field in Savar to get their pay, though the process was hindered as many had no identity cards, industrial police inspector Faruk Hossain said.

Inspector Hossain said factory supervisors were helping identify workers who did not have ID cards or other proof that they were employed by the five factories.

Rafiqul Islam, a BGMEA official, said wages would be given out in phases. The workers, many of whom made little more than the national minimum wage of about £24 a month, are demanding at least four months’ pay. They had set Tuesday as a deadline for full payment. Local government official Yousuf Harun has said no wages had remained unpaid except those for the month of April and there was an agreement for the workers to receive an additional three months’ pay. The BGMEA said on Monday that it was preparing a list of workers employed in the Rana Plaza factories and the process would take a few more days.

Bangladesh earns nearly ­
£12.8 billion a year from exports of clothing goods mainly to ­Europe and America.

Officials said the building’s owner illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though the structure was not ­designed to support this.

The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained.