The death toll from a collapsed garment-factory building rose to 761 on Wednesday as authorities started disbursing salary and other benefits to the survivors in the country’s deadliest industrial disaster.
According to a control room at the scene, rescue workers recovered more bodies out of the wreckage of the eight-storey Rana Plaza that was packed with morning-shift workers when it collapsed on April 24 outside the nation’s capital.
There is no clear indication on how many bodies still remain trapped in the debris, as the exact number of people inside the collapsed building at the time of the collapse was unknown. More than 2,500 people were rescued alive.
The disaster is the worst ever in the garment sector, far surpassing a fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and another in Bangladesh that killed 112 last year, as well as the 1911 garment disaster in New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory that killed 146 workers.
After hundreds of garment factory workers protested for compensation on Tuesday morning, authorities started disbursing salary and other benefits.
Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, a top military official in the area, said around 400 workers gathered on Tuesday night to get dues and benefits.
Officials helped BGMEA disburse the amount.
Rafiqul Islam, an official of the industry association, said it is yet to get the full list of the workers but the disbursement would continue in phases.
Islam said they have a plan to sit with workers’ representatives later Wednesday to discuss how it could reach out to the real victims for proper disbursement of compensation and other financial aid.
The workers, many who made little more than the national minimum wage of about $38 per month, are demanding at least four months in salary. The workers had set Tuesday as the deadline for the payment of wages and other benefits.
The BGMEA had said on Monday that it was preparing a “complete list” of workers employed in the Rana Plaza factories and the process would take a few more days.
Bangladesh earns nearly $20 billion a year from exports of the garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe.
The is no specific deadline to complete the recovery operation at the building site as authorities said it would continue until all bodies and debris are removed.
Officials say the building’s owner illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though it was designed as a market and an office building.