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Anger Rises Along With Death Toll At Bangladesh Factory

Rescue workers in Bangladesh sifted through broken concrete and twisted rebar Thursday hoping to find survivors from the collapse of an eight-story garment factory complex that has killed more than 200 people and trapped hundreds of others.

NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting from New Delhi, India, says this could be the South Asian country's worst industrial disaster, and that it has "revived anger about unregulated factories that supply some of the world's best-known brands."

The Associated Press reports that:

"Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble in search of survivors and corpses, worked through the night and into Thursday amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers' relatives gathered outside the building, called Rana Plaza. It housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies."

The collapse in Savar, an industrial suburb of the capital, Dhaka, occurred Wednesday after some workers reported the appearance of deep cracks in the walls of the complex. Officials said factory managers ignored a police order to evacuate the building after the cracks were discovered.

Cheap labor and production costs have made Bangladesh an attractive place for Western companies to produce textiles and garments in recent years, allowing the country to become the second-largest producer of textiles, after China.

"But workers' rights groups say the pressure to produce things cheaply in Bangladesh only discourages renovations [to factories] that can be costly," McCarthy says.

The AP says at least two factories in the complex produced clothing for major foreign brands: Ether Tex claims to supply Wal-Mart and New Wave Style, which says it makes clothing for U.S. retailers The Children's Place and Dress Barn, Britain's Primark, Spain's Mango and Italy's Benetton.

On its website, Primark said it was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the incident.

On Wednesday, The Children's Place confirmed that it was supplied by one of the factories in the complex, but Dress Barn said it had "not purchased any clothing from that facility since 2010."

The collapse comes just five months after 112 workers were killed in a fire in another apparel factory in Bangladesh that had supplied Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

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

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