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Death toll from Bangladesh building collapse climbs above 700

Story highlights

  • The death toll reaches 705, a government official says
  • Authorities still don't know exactly how many bodies remain buried in the rubble
  • More than 2,400 people were rescued after of the collapse in Savar, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh has come under pressure to improve worker safety

The death toll from the disastrous building collapse in Bangladesh last month has risen above 700, authorities said Tuesday, as recovery workers continued to pull bodies from the rubble.

The building, which housed five factories full of garment workers, caved in nearly two weeks ago, burying hundreds of people in a heap of mangled concrete in Savar, a suburb of the capital, Dhaka. It is the South Asian nation's deadliest industrial disaster.

Rescue workers managed to save more than 2,400 people in the aftermath of the collapse, but their work for the past week has focused on using heavy machinery to uncover the remaining bodies buried inside the ruins.

The number of people confirmed dead from the disaster reached 705 on Tuesday, according to Jitendra Kumar Nath, a senior official with the district administration of Dhaka

A large number of people have continued to wait near the site of the collapse for news of missing relatives. Their gathering point is a school playing field where bodies retrieved from the ruins are taken for initial identification attempts.

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The task of identifying is made all the more difficult by the decomposed state of many of the bodies.

The recovery effort is expected to continue for several more days.

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Blame spread around

The owners of the building and the factories are under police investigation over accusations they ordered workers to enter the premises on the day of the collapse despite cracks appearing in the structure the day before.

Preliminary results of a government inquiry into the building collapse found that "heavy machinery and high-capacity generators" were "largely responsible," the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha News Agency reported last week.

"During the inquiry, we have found that use of substandard materials during the construction also contributed to the building collapse," the leader of the inquiry, Main Uddin Khandaker, told BSS.

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Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry accounts for 77% of the country's exports.

Among those caught up in the finger-pointing after the building collapse disaster are Western retailers and clothing brands that Bangladeshi suppliers say put heavy pressure on prices, resulting in bad pay and conditions for workers.

At the weekend, representatives of Bangladesh's government, industry and workers issued a joint statement laying out an "action plan" to improve worker safety in the wake of the disaster.

The European Union has said it is considering trade action against Bangladesh if it doesn't take clear steps to improve the safety conditions of its millions of garment workers.

In November, a fire at Tazreen Fashions Factory, a garment maker in another suburb of Dhaka, killed at least 112 people.

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