Alex Hamasaki, Student Intern
Last Modified: 01:50 DST, 29 April 2013
DHAKA, BANGLADESH – Two factory bosses and two engineers were arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday, three days after the collapse of a factory that created low-cost garments for Western brands.
The death toll has risen to 350 with many more being found alive. As many as 900 people could be missing, said police.
The owner of the eight-story building that collapsed on 3,000 people is still on the run and has yet to be found.
The police have alerted airport and border patrols and arrested his wife in an attempt to draw out the owner from hiding.
Officials said that Rana Plaza, on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, was built by the engineers without the correct permits.
The police and industry leaders blame the owner for false assurances that the building was sound despite the warning by inspectors to the engineers that the building was not to be opened, reports NBC. The day previous to the collapse, a jolt had been felt that resulted in cracking some pillars.
Rana Plaza reportedly listed many European and North American retailers as its customers, which occupied upper floors on the building that officials said had been added illegally, says NBC.
This incident led to an increase in pressure on Western companies to take steps to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi factories in light of the November deadly fire outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, and has a notoriously poor fire safety record, according to the New York Times. More than 500 factory workers have died since 2006, claims an anti-sweatshop advocacy group called Clean Clothes Campaign.
Analysts of the tragedy said that based on past experience, Western customers are also to blame due to the pressure to fulfill orders on a tight deadline. Ara O’Rourke, an expert on workplace monitoring at the University of California, Berkely, said that “Even in a situation of a grave threat, when they saw cracks in the walls, factory managers thought it was too risky not to work because of the pressure on them from U.S. and European retailers to deliver their goods on time,” reports the New York Times.
O’Rourke added that the prices the Western companies want to pay “are so low that they are at the root of why these factories are cutting corners on fire safety and building safety.”
Many companies are acknowledging their use of the factories and offering their condolences. A few Western companies, including Benetton, deny having garments made at the factory, reports the New York Times.
The collapse of Rana Plaza did not come at a surprise for anyone. News spread within the area about the risk that the building posed. Due to garment exports being a critical driver of the Bangladeshi economy, there is pressure to keep wages low and workers in line. Pressure on Western and European countries have mounted due to several incidents including the November fire, which has resulted in several companies endorsing to finance fire safety efforts and structural upgrades in Bangladeshi factories.
- Owner is at nexus of Bangladesh politics, business (seattlepi.com)
- Owner of collapsed building captured in Bangladesh (news.yahoo.com)
- Bangladesh Arrests Rana Plaza Owner as Fire Breaks Out in Rubble – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Mohammed Sohel Rana, Bangladesh factory owner, arrested as death toll climbs (syndicatednewsservices.com)
- Bangladesh Building Collapse: Fire Breaks Out In Factory Wreckage (huffingtonpost.com)