Second massive disaster to Bangladesh Clothing Factories within 5 months

Violent Protests Follow Building Collapse in Bangladesh – NYTimes.com. On April 24, 2013, the unthinkable happened again. This time a building which housed 5 different garment manufacturing companies collapsed in Bangladesh. The on-going death toll from this disaster is up to 1,127 people (as of May 17th). There were approximately more than 3,000 people inside when the building collapsed. More than a hundred people had been dragged out alive from the rubble. There are, at least, known 2,500 survivors. The rescue has been going on for days, but now, far fewer survivors are being dragged out, and more decomposing bodies being brought out which are then sprayed with heavy perfumes (to hide the odor) and quickly wrapped and moved out. The rescue scene has been complicated by a recent fire, which occurred on Saturday. It is a race against time.

The rescue attempts in Bangladesh

The rescue attempts in Bangladesh

Previous Disaster

Just as the last of the embers and ashes from people’s short term memories were about to extinguish about the horrific fire in a Bangladesh garment factory  that happened on November 29, 2012, killing 112 people, this second disaster has enraged the people of Bangladesh – (probably because both of these catastrophes were preventable). Hundreds of thousands of Bangladesh workers have taken to the streets to protest, occasionally violently. The first disaster was caused by a fire in the factory, but there were no escape routes, windows were chained up, and there were multiple fire prevention deficiencies. After the fire, companies said that they were going to seriously make working conditions safer. See my blog entry: Walmart tightens up on suppliers. However, not much progress has been made. Companies were hoping that the public would forget.

Collapse of Rana Building, Bangladesh

Collapse of Rana Building, Bangladesh

The Details of the Building Collapse

According to press reports, The Rana Plaza building, an eight story building, collapsed on Wednesday, April 25. However, complicating this fact was that on Tuesday, April 24th, cracks were discovered in the structure, and shops and a bank branch were immediately closed. But the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors ordered employees to work Wednesday, despite the safety risks. It has further been discovered the Rana Plaza Building violated numerous building codes, plus, the four upper floors were constructed illegally without permits. The police have had their hands full with organizing the rescue and cordoning off protesters. In response to the public outrage, the police have also arrested five people in connection with the collapse of the shoddily-constructed building, but, one, the building owner, is on the run (the police are holding his wife, in an attempt to force him to surrender). Of the five that were arrested, three were factory owners and two were government engineers. Update: the owner of the Rana Building, Mohammed Sohel Rana, has been arrested, drawing cheers and applause from the public. Of the clothing brand labels found inside the slave labor garment factories were: JC Penney, Cato Fashions, Primark (a British retailer), El Corte ingles (a Spanish retailer) and others.

bangladesh collapse 1

Conclusion – Is it worth it?

Bangladesh is the second largest ready-made garment manufacturer in the world, after China. The working conditions in Bangladesh are substandard and dangerous. The average garment worker at the Rana Plaza building is $38 per month. Like I mentioned before, there has been a serious movement to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh, however companies like Wal-Mart and GAP have been actively obstructing any reforms, according to Sumofus.org. However, there has been some progress, companies like Tchibo (a German retailer) and PVH (which makes Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) have signed on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement which protects Bangladesh workers from disasters such as this.

They die for our clothes – is it worth it? Buy Made in the U.S.A.

(sources: NY Times, A/P and Sky News)

5 Responses to “Second massive disaster to Bangladesh Clothing Factories within 5 months”

  1. April 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Jack: Thanks for your great post on this horrible situation that is a predictable byproduct of the offshoring of our apparel manufacturing sector. When the workers are in Bangladesh rather then Bremerton, it is a bit harder to check on their working conditions. As you so succinctly say at the end of your post: They die for our clothes – is it worth it? No it’s not worth it.

    All the best,


  2. April 29, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Such a great sadness. Why don’t more people find these working conditions unacceptable?

    • April 30, 2013 at 4:15 am

      I think it is people don’t like to think about such things, but that is what you are getting when you make a deal with the devil – such low prices come at a price. We need to buy more responsibly when we can.

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