Death toll from Bangladesh building collapse rises to 160

Posted at 11:48 PM, Apr 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-25 01:48:36-04

By Farid Ahmed, for CNN.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) — The death toll from the collapse of a Bangladeshi building rose to 160 on Thursday as rescuers frantically combed through the mangled heap of the eight stories that housed a garment factory.

The building on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, included five garment manufacturers that employed about 2,500 workers. It caved in Wednesday, injuring more than 1,000 people and leaving many others trapped.

Rescuers had recovered 160 bodies from the wreckage by Thursday morning, said Dhaka District Police Chief Habibur Rahman.

Broken concrete and twisted metal stuck out from the massive pile of rubble.

Video from the scene on Wednesday showed injured victims being whisked away on stretchers and crews carrying limp bodies from the ruins of the building.

Some onlookers wept while others frantically searched for missing loved ones, sometimes digging with their bare hands to reach people buried in the wreckage.

Abdul Alim, a day laborer, said he heard people screaming inside the building and tried to help them.

“We couldn’t make our way to get in,” said Alim, who was one of the thousands of onlookers who tried to reach trapped victims before military, fire and civil defense rescuers arrived at the scene.

Authorities say they haven’t yet determined what caused the collapse of the building or how many people remain trapped inside.

Several garment workers near the wreckage said a crack appeared Tuesday on the building’s seventh floor.

At first, the workers said, managers ordered workers not to report to work Wednesday.

But the factory owners later reversed the order, telling workers that the building was safe, said Marjina Begum, who worked on the sixth floor. Many workers were hesitant to show up Wednesday but reported to work because they were afraid of losing their jobs, she said. More than a dozen other workers corroborated her story.

Managers for the garment manufacturers housed inside the building could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

M. Atiqul Islam, president of the garment manufacturers association, told reporters Wednesday evening that owners kept the factories open after the building’s owner assured them that there would be no problems with the cracks that appeared on Tuesday.

Employees of the Savar branch of BRAC Bank were evacuated Tuesday after the crack was detected and were ordered not to show up on Wednesday, according to the national news agency, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, citing a news statement from the bank.

None of the bank’s workers were among the injured or dead, it said.

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