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South Asia

Bangladesh garment factory death toll passes 620

The death toll from Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster has climbed to 622. Murder complaints have been filed by victims' relatives against owners and operators.

A further 53 bodies were recovered on Sunday from the ruins of the eight-story complex, which collapsed on April 24. Rescue workers said they could see more trapped in the rubble.

Hundreds of workers' relatives had gathered at the site on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, some holding up photographs of family members. Authorities have found it increasingly difficult to identify bodies and are using ID cards or mobile phones found on them to do so.

On Sunday, the wife of one of the workers who was killed filed a murder complaint against the building's owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana. She said her husband had been forced to go to work in his factory in the building despite huge cracks appearing in the walls a day before it collapsed, a lawyer told the Reuters news agency.

Murder complaints were also filed against the owner of one of the garment factories inside the building and a municipal engineer in the suburb of Dhaka, where the factory was located.

"If they are found guilty of these killings they will get the highest punishment: capital punishment," said Abdul Huq, a lawyer working at the court where the cases were lodged.

Rana was arrested after a four-day hunt as he appeared to be trying to flee across the border to India.

The government has blamed the collapse of the Rana Plaza building on faulty, illegal construction. It cites shoddy building materials, including substandard rods, bricks and cement, and not obtaining the necessary clearances.

Worst ever garment factory accident

The poor construction meant the building was unable to support the generators running inside, the Export Promotion Bureau, a wing of the Commerce Ministry, reported.

Masood Reza, an architect with Vastukalpa Consultants who designed the building, said it was created in 2004 as a shopping mall and not for any industrial purpose. "We designed the building to have three stories for shops and another two for offices. I don't know how the additional floors were added and how factories were allowed on the top floors," he said.

The payment of compensation to the victims' families and inspecting the safety of other factories are also being considered by the government, according to Reuters.

It is by far the worst ever, reported garment factory accident ever. By comparison 146 workers died in New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911 and in 2012, 260 people died in a factory fire in Pakistan and 112 at a fire in Bangladesh.

jm/jlw (Reuters, AP, AFP)