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Disasters

Rescuers dig for survivors after Bangladesh factory collapse

Rescuers have been searching the rubble for survivors after the collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh. More than 230 people are now believed to have died in the disaster, with more fatalities expected.

Rescue teams on Thursday worked to save survivors as Bangladesh mourned those who died in the Wednesday morning collapse, with flags flying at half mast and the country declaring a day of mourning.

With more than 230 fatalities so far, some 1,000 people were also injured in the tragedy just outside the capital, Dhaka, which authorities claim could have been avoided.

A senior police officer in the disaster control room, Wali Asraf, told the AFP news agency that rescue workers could hear survivors trapped beneath the debris.

"Rescue workers are digging carefully to pull them out," Asraf was reported as saying.

Rescue efforts involving fire and army service workers using cutters and drilling machines to reach the trapped and injured continued through the night. Food and oxygen were being sent down through gaps in the rubble for those who could not be rescued immediately, Asraf said.

The remains of the eight-story block have been compressed to the height of a two-story building, according to a report in Bangladesh's Daily Star newspaper.

"We are going to bore holes through the roof and go inside," said rescue operation leader Brigadier General Mohammad Siddiqul Alam Sikder. "We have to be extremely careful."

Questions over safety resurface

Police have said that the factory owners appeared to have dismissed warnings on Tuesday about a large crack that was detected in the block. It is alleged that the factory owners had assured employees there was no danger and that staff were "sweet talked" or even bullied into going to work.

Visiting the site, Interior Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said the building had broken building regulations, adding that "the culprits would be punished." Three stories were allegedly added to the building illegally.

The building had housed a number of garment-making businesses, including suppliers to the leading low-cost UK retailer Primark.

Bangladesh employs some 3.6 million people in the clothing manufacture industry and is the second biggest exporter of garments in the world.

The accident highlights safety problems associated with Bangladesh's textile industry. Last November, 112 people died in a blaze at a factory making products for Walmart and a number of other Western brands.

rc, ccp/kms (AP, dpa, AFP)