Death toll from Bangladesh building collapse rises above 700

May 7, 2013 at 8:16 AM   |   Comments

DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 7 (UPI) -- Crews performed the grim task of pulling bodies from the debris of a building collapse in Bangladesh, where an official said Tuesday the death toll topped 700.

The building, which housed five garment factories, collapsed April 24, burying hundreds of people in Savar, a suburb of the capital, Dhaka, in what has become the country's deadliest industrial disaster.

Jitendra Kumar Nath, a senior official with the district administration of Dhaka, confirmed that the number of confirmed dead had reached 705, CNN reported.

Rescuers saved more than 2,400 people.

Heavy machinery has been used for about a week to recover the bodies buried beneath the rubble. The recovery effort is expected to last several more days, officials said.

Bodies pulled from the rubble were taken to a nearby school for initial identification efforts, but identifying the victims has become difficult because of the state of decomposition, CNN said.

The owners of the building and the factories were detained on accusations they ordered workers to enter the premises the day of the collapse despite cracks found in the structure the day before.

A government inquiry's preliminary results found "heavy machinery and high-capacity generators" were "largely responsible," the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha reported last week.

The inquiry's leader said the investigation found substandard materials used in construction "also contributed to the building collapse."

Also criticized were Western retailers and clothing houses whose pricing demands result in poor pay and bad working conditions for workers, Bangladeshi leaders said.

Representatives of Bangladesh's government, industry and workers issued a joint statement during the weekend that outlined an "action plan" to improve worker safety, CNN said.

The European Union said it was considering trade action against Bangladesh if it didn't take steps to improve safety conditions.

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