Bangladesh garment workers protest building tragedy

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DHAKA: Hundreds of thousands of garment workers walked out of their factories in Bangladesh Thursday, police said, to protest the deaths of 247 people in a building collapse, in the latest tragedy to hit the sector.

Grief turned to anger as the workers, some carrying sticks, blockaded key  highways in at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka,  forcing factory owners to declare a day’s holiday.

“There were hundreds of thousands of them,” said Abdul Baten, police chief  of Gazipur district, where hundreds of large garment factories are based. “They  occupied roads for a while and then dispersed.”   

Police inspector Kamrul Islam said the workers had attacked several  factories whose bosses had refused to give employees the day off.

“They were protesting the deaths of the workers in Savar,” he said,  referring to the town outside Dhaka where Wednesday’s collapse of an  eight-storey building housing five garment factories took place, injuring more  than 1,000 people.

“Many wanted to donate blood to their fellow workers,” he added.

Some 1,500 workers marched to the Dhaka headquarters of the main  manufacturers association, demanding the owners of the collapsed factories be  punished.

“The owners must be hanged,” one protester cried, as others tried to lay  siege to the headquarters.

Some workers smashed windows and vehicles before they were chased away by  police, Wahidul Islam, a deputy commissioner of Dhaka police, told AFP.

Rescuers in Savar pulled dozens of bodies from the collapsed building on  Thursday as the death toll in the country’s worst industrial disaster reached  200, police said.

Managers had allegedly ignored workers’ warnings that the building had  become unstable.

Survivors say the building developed cracks on Tuesday evening, triggering  an evacuation of the roughly 3,000 garment workers employed there, but that  they had been ordered back to production lines.

The accident has again highlighted safety problems and poor working  conditions that plague the textile industry in Bangladesh, the world’s  second-biggest clothing exporter.

Last November a blaze at a factory making clothing for Walmart and other  Western labels in Dhaka left 111 people dead, with survivors describing how  fire exits were kept locked by site managers.--AFP

Bodies of garment factory workers are seen amid rubble after an eight-storey building collapsed in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 25, 2013. Survivors cried out to rescuers from the rubble of a block of garment factories in Bangladesh that collapsed killing 175 people, sparking criticism of their Western clients. AFP PHOTO

A Bangladeshi woman shows a portrait of her missing daughter in-law, believed trapped in the rubble following the collapse of an an eight-storey building in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 25, 2013. Survivors cried out to rescuers April 25 from the rubble of a block of garment factories in Bangladesh that collapsed killing 175 people, sparking criticism of their Western clients. AFP PHOTO

Bangladeshi firefighters use jackhammers to cut through concrete during rescue operations after an eight-storey building collapsed in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 25, 2013. The death toll in the Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster reached 200 people after rescue workers pulled out scores more corpses from the rubble of a collapsed garment factory building. AFP PHOTO

Bangladeshis walk past bodies of victims, to identify relatives who died in a building collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. An eight-storey building housing several garment factories collapsed near Bangladesh’s capital on Wednesday, killing dozens of people and trapping many more under a jumbled mess of concrete, and rescuers tried to cut through the debris with earthmovers, drilling machines and their bare hands. AP Photo


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