Savar death toll rises to 554

Rescuers sifting through the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza, on Saturday, recovered 20 more bodies from the debris, and, with this, the death toll from the tragic incident rose to 554.
The tragedy struck the eight-storey building on April 24. Recounting the search operation, officer-in-charge of Savar Model Police Station Asaduzzaman, on Saturday, said that 30 more bodies had been recovered from the ill-fated building. Of the recovered bodies, 444 bodies had handed over to their families, while the rest have been kept at the Savar Adhar Chandra Model High School ground, and at the morgues of Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Salimullah Medical College and Hospital.
The search operation’s second phase continued for the fifth consecutive day on Saturday.
The members of Army, Navy, Air Force, Fire Service and Red Crescent Society are taking part in the operation, that began on Tuesday midnight. Heavy-duty cranes, cameras and trained dog squads have been pressed into service.
During search operation, concrete slabs are being removed one by one and the debris was dumped at the Bongshi River, by trucks.
Confusion continues over the exact number of people still missing.
Bangladesh Army has rubbished the allegations of ‘hiding’ bodies of those killed in the building collapse, and described such claims as ‘unfortunate’.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also dismissed such allegations, saying that relatives and friends of those missing and media persons are present at the site, all the time.
Even on Saturday, many people were seen waiting in front of the collapsed building in search of their near and dear ones, with their photographs.
The huge structure came crashing down suddenly on April 24. Most of the victims were workers employed in the five ready made garment factories on the upper floors of the building.
Meanwhile, reputed weekly the Economist said, many other rickety factories have undoubtedly been built as Bangladesh scrambles to meet a boom in demand for its garments.
About the impact of the Savar incident on country’s RMG industry the magazine in an article published on May 2 said, the industry is worth some $20 billion, nearly double its size in January 2011 when the European Union relaxed its trade rules to allow the poorest countries to import fabric (rather than produce it domestically) to be stitched into garments that are sold duty-free in the EU.
“As production shifts from China, Bangladesh expects to become the world’s largest exporter of clothing. Buyers are unlikely to abandon it. Some firms linked to the Savar disaster have promised compensation for victims. The EU says it will push for higher standards. America, which had also been negotiating duty-free access for Bangladeshi goods, had already insisted on better conditions.
Bangladesh’s main advantage is its low cost. Labour is desperately cheap: the monthly minimum wage of 3,000 taka ($38) is less than a fifth of the going rate in China. The lack of environmental protection is a licence to pollute. An adviser to one foreign buyer says there are “no rules whatsoever that cannot be bent”. As a result, retailers’ margins are generous: a pair of jeans is typically produced for a quarter of its €20 ($26) European shop-price”.
Political fallout will probably be limited. Voters and the opposition soon forgot previous disasters. A fire at a Dhaka garment factory in November killed 112. Nor is Bangladesh alone in its wretched safety standards. In September a fire killed 289 in a factory in Karachi, Pakistan. In April dozens of Indians died when an illegally built residential tower tumbled in Mumbai.
Bangladesh’s garment business has growing clout. The BGMEA’s 4,000 members account for four of every five dollars earned from exports. And the industry is tied to the corrupt political system: at least 25 MPs have investments in the garment business. After the November fire, the BGMEA sent inspectors to some of its members’ factories. Four buildings had structural flaws or violated construction or labour laws. Who were the owners? The lobby group’s president, Atiqul Islam, his predecessor and a former vice-president of the association. None was prosecuted.

-With The Independent input

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