During a visit to the Indian capital, New Delhi, Muhith on Friday said the disaster would not harm Bangladesh’s garment industry, which is by far the country’s biggest source of export income.
“The present difficulties … well, I don’t think it is really serious — it’s an accident,” he said. “And the steps that we have taken in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen, they are quite elaborate and I believe that it will be appreciated by all.”
Asked if he was worried that foreign retailers might pull orders from his country, Muhith said he wasn’t: “These are individual cases of … accidents. It happens everywhere.”
Muhith, a long-time government official from a prominent family, has been criticized for insensitive comments in the past — even by his own party. Last year when thousands of small investors lost their savings and poured into the streets seeking government intervention, Muhith said it wasn’t responsible and the investors were at fault.
The official death toll from the April 24 collapse reached 519 Friday and was expected to climb, making it likely the deadliest garment-factory accident in world history. It surpassed long-ago disasters such as New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 workers in 1911, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that same year that killed 112.
At the site of the collapse, workers carefully used cranes to remove the concrete rubble and continue the slow task of recovering bodies. The official number of missing has been 149 since Wednesday, though unofficial estimates are higher.
“We are still proceeding cautiously so that we get the bodies intact,” said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hassan Suhwardy, the commander of the area’s army garrison supervising the rescue operation.
A government investigator said Friday that substandard building materials, combined with the vibration of the heavy machines used by the five garment factories inside the Rana Plaza building, led to the horrific collapse.
Mainuddin Khandkar, the head of a government committee investigating the disaster, said substandard rods, cement, bricks and other weak materials were used in the building’s construction.
About 15 minutes before the collapse, the building was hit by a power blackout, so its heavy generators were turned on, shaking the weakened structure, Khandkar said.
“The vibration created by machines and generators operating in the five garment factories contributed first to the cracks and then the collapse,” he said, adding that a final report would be soon submitted to the government.
Police official Ohiduzzaman said Friday that engineer Abdur Razzak Khan was arrested a day earlier on a charge of negligence. He said Khan worked as a consultant to Rana Plaza owner Mohammed Sohel Rana when the illegal three-floor addition was made to the building.
Rana called Khan to inspect the building after it developed cracks on April 23, local media reported. That night Khan appeared on a private television station saying that after his inspection he told Rana to evacuate the building because it was not safe.
Khan, a former engineer at Jahangirnagar University near Savar, said he told government engineers the building needed to be examined further.
Police ordered the building evacuated, but witnesses say Rana told people gathered outside the next morning that the building was safe and that garment factory managers told their workers to go inside. It collapsed hours later.
Authorities also suspended the mayor of Savar, Mohammad Refatullah, for alleged negligence, said Abu Alam, a top official of the local government ministry.
Source: UNB Connect