DHAKA – The death toll from last month’s collapse of a garment factory complex in Bangladesh rose past 1,000 Friday as piles of bodies were found in the ruins of a stairwell where victims had sought shelter.
Brig. Gen. Siddiqul Alam Sikder, the army officer overseeing the operation on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, said the death toll now stands at 1,035 after dozens more remains were discovered overnight.
Alam said many of the bodies were little more than skeletons, 17 days after the implosion of the nine-story Rana Plaza compound in Savar. The stench from under the rubble suggested that many more bodies are still to be located, he said.
“We have found a huge number of bodies in the stairwell and under the staircases. When the building started to collapse, workers thought they would be safe under the staircases,” he said. “Each time we moved a slab of concrete, we found a stack of bodies.”
Around 3,000 workers were on shift at Rana Plaza on April 24 when the building caved in.
Most of the employees were earning around $40 a month making clothing for Western brands, such as Britain’s Primark and the Spanish label Mango.
Survivors now without work say the levels of compensation are inadequate and won’t even cover the medical costs for victims who have suffered serious injuries, including amputations.
Efforts to identify the victims are being hampered by the decomposition of bodies, although some were found with mobile phones in their pockets or identity cards around their necks.
The preliminary findings of a government probe have blamed vibrations from four giant generators on the compound’s upper floors for triggering the collapse.