DHAKA, Bangladesh — Rescuers recovered at least 87 bodies from the rubble of a collapsed eight-story building that housed mostly garment factories outside Dhaka on Wednesday, officials said.
Many more were still trapped in the remains of the building, which also contained shops and offices, and the army had been called in to help with rescue operations, police said.
More than 700 other were injured, Ruhul Forkan, an assistant director of the Health Ministry, told reports at the accident site. Many of them were rushed to hospitals in Savar and Dhaka, he added. Local people rescued more than 100 garment workers. “I heard a bang like a bomb blast,” garment worker Rashida Begum said from hospital.
“I tried to hide under the sewing machine and I don’t know how I got out of the building,” she said, adding many of her colleagues were trapped.
Most of the fatalities were women working in the building’s four garment factories, said Bharat Chandra Biswas, an official of the Fire Service and Civil Defense Department.
Rescue crews were trying to reach those trapped through a gap under the collapsed structure, said Ali Ahmed, the department’s chief. More than 100 people had been pulled to safety, he said, but up to 1,000 more might be trapped.
“It is not clear exactly how many people were working there when the building collapsed,” he said.
Television footage show hundreds of relatives near the site, some weeping with photographs of their loved ones as rescuers searched for survivors.
Rescuers from the army, fire service and civil defense and police departments are trying to remove parts of the shattered structure using cranes. Hospitals have urged the public to donate blood.
The government has announced a day of mourning on Thursday.
The building had an underground car par, a bank on the ground floor, shops on the first floor and clothing factories above.
Garment workers said more than 5,000 people used to produce clothes at the factories in the building.
“We did not want to work today as cracks surfaced in the building. But factory officials forced us to work,” said Aklima Begum, a 29-year-old employee at Phantom Apparels Limited, who was taken to Enam Medical College Hospital, northwest of Dhaka.
An officer from the Industrial Police unit blamed the factory owners for the loss of life.
“We asked the factory owners to keep their units shut, but they did not listen to us,” said Mustafizur Rahman, a director of the Industrial Police. He said the police department had told them to have the building tested by engineers.
Anisur Rahman, who owns a garment factory in the building, said the building owner assured him the structure was safe and was tested by an engineer.
“Based on the assurance we resumed work at the factory where 70 percent of 300 workers attended Wednesday,” the owner of Ether-text factory told reporters in Dhaka.
Safety in the garment industry, which accounts for nearly 79 percent of Bangladesh’s total export earnings, is questioned frequently when accidents take place.
In November, at least 112 workers were killed when Tazreen Fashions factory caught fire near Dhaka.
Sixty-four people were killed when the Spectrum Sweater factory collapsed in Dhaka’s Savar suburb in 2005. In another incident in 2006 in Dhaka, at least 22 people were killed when the Phoenix Textile building collapsed.