One day after concerns were raised over cracks in walls, the structure containing several garment factories collapsed. Rescue workers are trying to free people who are still trapped.
An eight-story building housing several garment factories collapsed near Bangladesh's capital on Wednesday, killing at least 87 people and trapping many more under a jumbled mess of concrete. Rescuers tried to cut through the debris with earth movers, drilling machines and their bare hands.
Less than five months after a factory fire killed 112 people, the disaster again underscored the unsafe conditions in Bangladesh's massive garment industry. Workers said they hesitated to go to work Wednesday because the building had developed such severe cracks the previous day that it had been reported on local news channels.
Abdur Rahim, who worked on the fifth floor, said a factory manager assured them there was no problem, so they went inside.
"We started working. After about an hour or so the building collapsed suddenly," he said. He next remembered regaining consciousness outside the building.
Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters during a visit to the site that the building had violated construction codes and "the culprits would be punished."
Among the businesses in the building were Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd., which make clothing for brands including Benetton, The Children's Place and Dress Barn. Workers said they didn't know what specific clothing brands were being produced in the building because labels are attached after the products are finished.
Sumi, a 25-year-old worker who goes by one name, said she was sewing jeans on the fifth floor with at least 400 others when the building fell. "It collapsed all of a sudden," she said. "No shaking, no indication. It just collapsed on us."
She said she managed to reach a hole in the building through which rescuers pulled her out.
Reports suggested the death toll was likely to rise.
"We sent two people inside the building and we could rescue at least 20 people alive. They also told us that at least 100 to 150 people are injured and about 50 dead people are still trapped inside this floor," said Mohammad Humayun, a supervisor at one of the garment factories.