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Bangladesh factory building collapses, trapping workers; 100 killed

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
Bangladeshi garment workers use lengths of fabric as a slide to evacuate from the rubble after an eight-storey building collapsed in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 24, 2013. AFP PHOTO | Getty Images

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Garment workers in Bangladesh were so uneasy about the cracks in their building that as many as 2,500 refused to enter on Tuesday, according to a labor rights group.

Activists say the building's owner and several factory managers assured the workers that they had nothing to fear and prodded them back to work on Wednesday — barely an hour before the eight-story building collapsed, crushing to death scores of people under a mass of concrete and debris.

“The workers were absolutely frightened,” said Charlie Kernaghan, director of the Pittsburgh-based Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, which has offices in Bangladesh. “They saw those cracks with their own eyes ... but they felt they had no choice. If you don't go to work, you're not getting paid.”

At least 100 people were killed and more than a thousand injured when Rana Plaza, on the outskirts of Dhaka, tumbled to the ground about 9 a.m., during rush hour, according to news reports. The building housed several garment factories and hundreds of shops, the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry said.

Building collapses are common in Bangladesh. Speaking at the scene, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said the building had violated construction codes and “the culprits would be punished.”

The death toll is expected to rise. Weeping survivors and anxious relatives gathered around the wreckage.

“It looks like an earthquake has struck here,” said one resident as he looked on at the chaotic scene and floor-upon-floor of smashed concrete.

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