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Dozens Killed In Collapse Of Bangladesh Garment Complex

More than 85 people are dead and scores injured in Bangladesh after the collapse of an eight-story building on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka.

The building, called Rana Plaza, housed several garment factories in the town of Savar. A firefighter at the scene told Reuters that about 2,000 people were inside when the upper floors jolted down on top of each other Wednesday.

"I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound but couldn't understand what was happening. I ran and was hit by something on my head," Sohra Begum, a worker at one of the garment factories, told the Press Trust of India.

M.M. Niazuddin, the government's health secretary, told Reuters that at least 76 people were confirmed dead. Another official said hundreds were being treated for injuries.

"We assume scores of people are still trapped inside and many of them would have died," Bangladeshi Health Minister A.F.M. Ruhal Huq was quoted by PTI as saying.

Mohammad Asaduzzaman, in charge of the area's police station, told Reuters that the factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block Tuesday.

The BBC quotes one worker rescued from the building as saying "factory owners had told workers on Wednesday morning 'not to worry' and that 'they said they had examined the crack.' "

Photographs show rescue workers and the army frantically searching through the rubble, looking for survivors as onlookers dig with their bare hands. The Associated Press reports that "tens of thousands of people gathered at the site, some of them weeping survivors, some searching for family members. Firefighters and soldiers using drilling machines and cranes worked together with local volunteers in the search for other survivors."

The AP adds:

"Among the businesses in the building were Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd. garment factories, companies that make clothing for brands including Benetton, The Children's Place and Dress Barn. Workers said they didn't know what specific clothing brands were being made in the building because labels are attached after the products are finished."

[Update at 12:55 p.m. ET: In a statement from The Children's Place quoted by The Washington Post, company spokeswoman Jane Singer says that "while one of the garment factories located in the building complex has produced apparel for The Children's Place, none of our product was in production at the time of this accident." The statement said "deepest sympathies go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy and their families."

The Post also quoted Dress Barn as saying that to its knowledge it had "not purchased any clothing from that facility since 2010. We work with suppliers around the world to manufacture our clothing, and have a supply chain transparency program to protect the rights of workers and their safety."]

NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting from New Delhi, India, says the building collapse is just "the latest tragic accident to hit the country's booming garment industry, one of the main drivers of the Bangladeshi economy, accounting for approximately 80 percent of exports."

"Critics have condemned the government and global brands that earn billions from Bangladeshi cheap labor for not doing more to improve conditions," she says. "In November, a fire at a Dhaka garment factory killed 112 people and triggered an outcry over safety standards."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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