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Building Owner to Face Murder Charges

Thursday, April 24, 2014

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The owner of the Bangladeshi factory building that collapsed one year ago, killing 1,135 workers and injuring 2,500, will face murder charges as the victims try to move on from the tragedy, according to reports.

Owner Sohel Rana is one of about 40 people who will face charges in the disaster April 24, 2013, reports say, citing lead police investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar.

“We are planning to press murder charges against Sohel Rana and some other accused,” Kar told Agence France-Presse.

Rana Plaza collapse
Rijans / Flickr

The factory collapsed April 24, 2013, in Savar, Bangladesh. The tragedy has been described as the worst industrial accident in the country's history and the worst ever in the garment industry.

Others who may also be charged include Rana’s father, who is a co-owner of the building, and garment company managers who operated the doomed complex, reports say.

Deadly Collapse

The nine-story Rana Plaza, in Savar, which housed five garment factories, collapsed the morning of April 24, 2013.

The death toll in the disaster reached 1,135 after a month of rescuers digging through rubble. Many of the 2,500 who were rescued suffered serious injuries.

One of the last known survivors was unearthed May 10. The 19-year-old had survived for 17 days in the basement of the collapsed building on water and dried food. Rescuers had pushed bottled water through cracks in the ruins.

Workers Ordered to Report

Large cracks in the building had been discovered the day before the collapse, and police had issued an evacuation order.

However, Rana allegedly told factory managers on the morning of the collapse that the building was safe.

Thus, the workers were ordered to enter the building to make clothing for more than two dozen Western retailers.

Sohel Rana
NBC News / Today

Building owner Sohel Rana was arrested days after the collapse while attempting to flee to India, officials say. He reportedly told the factory owners that the building was safe to occupy, despite large cracks in the concrete reported the day before.

Reports said the workers had been threatened with loss of a month's wages—a month’s about $50 USD—if they did not show up for work.

Rana was arrested in the days following the collapse as he was attempting to flee to India, officials reported.

Other Charges Considered

Officials say they are also weighing charges against engineers and regulators who illegally approved the building construction in 2006, without inspection.

Reports have said the building included the addition of three extra floors, although the owner had obtained permission for only six.

Moreover, builders reportedly used inadequate construction materials, including substandard rods, bricks and cement, to build the new floors.

Heavy machines and generators used in the factories were also said to have played a role in the structure’s demise. An architect who worked for the firm that designed the building has told reporters that the structure was not designed for heavy industrial work.

Worker and Safety Reforms

Since the disaster, a number of workers’ rights and building safety reforms have been initiated within the country’s $22 billion garment industry, reports note.

“Engineers hired by the retailers have since shut down at least 11 factories temporarily and ordered scores of other factories to improve fire and building safety in an effort to avoid a repeat of the disaster,” AFP reports.

The government also allowed the country’s four million garment workers to form trade unions without factory owner permission.

Victims get Initial Payments

Meanwhile, victims of the collapse—considered the country’s worst industrial disaster ever—have received their first payments from a fund set up by the International Labor Organisation.

About 3,000 people, including survivors and families of the deceased, are being paid 50,000 taka ($640) as an advance against their claims.

Rana Plaza
Sharat Chowdhury / Wikimedia Commons

Before resorting to heavy machinery, the rescuers used their hands and shovels to comb the rubble.

“These initial payments are good news; now it needs to be ensured that all legitimate claims are honored and that the injured victims or their surviving families receive full entitlements for their losses,” said Gilbert Houngbo, ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnership.

The maximum the victims may receive will be 3 million taka ($38,000), AFP reported, citing Bangladesh’s Labor Secretary Mikail Shipar.

The International Labor Organisation has “slammed Western retailers” for their “woefully inadequate” donations to the victims’ compensation fund, which needs about $40 million to compensate the workers and their families, AFP said.

Only $15 million has been pledged so far.


Tagged categories: Building owners; Concrete; Construction; Cracks; Criminal acts; Engineers; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety

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