Mayor suspended over building collapse

Bangladeshis in mourning.
Bangladeshis in mourning.

DHAKA — The mayor of the Bangladesh municipality where a factory building collapsed killing more than 400 people was suspended from office today, a government minister said, as rescuers pressed on with the task of recovering bodies from the wreckage.

The scale of the April 24 disaster has prompted a worldwide outcry at poor safety and pay in many factories making clothes for Western brands, with Pope Francis on Wednesday likening the conditions of workers who died to “slave labour”.

The salvage operation remained slow despite the heavy machinery now being used to clear the rubble of Rana Plaza, in Dhaka’s commercial suburb of Savar, with a handful more bodies found today taking the death toll to 430.

“We are working here round the clock,” army spokesman Shahinul Islam said. “Rescue operations are taking time as everything is being done with utmost caution.”

Junior minister for local government Jagangir Kabir Nanak told reporters that Savar’s mayor, Mohammad Refat Ullah, had been suspended for approving the construction of Rana Plaza.

A senior official from the state-run Capital Development Authority said last week that the Savar municipality did not have the authority to grant the permit it had issued for a five-storey building at the site, and that three more floors had been illegally added to the building.

“We won’t spare anyone… Actions will be taken against all who are responsible for the tragedy,” Nanak said.

The building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, and his father, Abdul Khalek, are among eight people arrested so far, and police are seeking a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor.

There were about 3,000 people inside the complex, which was built on swampy land, when it collapsed. About 2,500 people have been rescued, many injured, but many remain unaccounted for.

About 40 unidentified victims were buried yesterday. One woman at the cemetery collapsed into tears when she recognised the body of her sister by her dress. (Reuters)

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