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Friday 18 October 2019

Garment building victims are buried

Bodies of victims are taken to the cemetery on a truck (AP)
Bodies of victims are taken to the cemetery on a truck (AP)
Workers watch as a crane lowers the ceiling of the garment factory building which collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP)
The building housing numerous clothing factories collapsed on April 24 (AP)

Dozens of Bangladeshi garment workers, too battered or decomposed to be identified, have been buried in a mass funeral a week after the disaster that killed at least 410 people.

Hundreds attended the traditional Muslim funeral and many more looked on from the roofs of nearby buildings as the dead were taken to the graveyard on flatbed trucks. Men and boys recited a traditional Muslim prayer for the dead. Then, 34 bodies were unloaded and placed in the graves.

Workers at the cemetery have dug several long rows of graves as authorities expect to bury scores more unidentified bodies in the coming days.

Five garment factories were housed in the illegally constructed Rana Plaza building that collapsed last week, five months after a fire killed 112 people at another clothing factory. The tragedies exposed the unsafe conditions plaguing Bangladesh's garment industry, which supplies many European and American retailers.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was shocked by a headline about the building collapse that said some of the workers were living on 38 euros a month. "This was the payment of these people who have died ... and this is called 'slave labour,'" he said.

EU officials are considering action including changes to Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free access to the giant EU market to "incentivise" responsible management of the nation's garment industry.

Pressure built inside Bangladesh as well, as a May Day procession of workers on foot, pickup trucks and motorcycles wound its way through central Dhaka demanding safe working conditions and capital punishment for the building's owner. They waved the national flag and banners, beat drums and chanted "Direct action!" and "Death penalty!"

Rescue workers expect the death toll to rise because they believe many bodies are still buried on the ground level of the building and there is confusion over how many people remain missing.

The owner of the building, Mohammed Sohel Rana, is under arrest and expected to be charged with negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work, which is punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail. Protesters demanded capital punishment for Rana, 38, a small-time political operative with the ruling Awami League party.

The Bangladesh High Court has ordered the government to confiscate Rana's property and freeze the assets of the owners of the factories in Rana Plaza so the money can be used to pay the salaries of their workers.

PA Media

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