The number of people killed by the collapse of a building in Bangladesh's capital rose to 147 overnight and the death toll could climb further because many people are still trapped inside, Dhaka's district police chief told Reuters on Thursday.
"The death toll could go up as many are still trapped under the rubble," Habibur Rahman said, a day after the collapse of the eight-storey building on the outskirts of Dhaka that housed several garment factories.
Officials said on Wednesday more than 1,000 people had been injured in the accident.
One fireman told Reuters about 2,000 people were in the Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (20 miles) outside Dhaka, when its upper floors slammed onto those below. An official at a control room set up to provide information said 96 people were confirmed dead and more than 1,000 injured. The Daily Star, a leading Bangladeshi newspaper, put that number at 106.
At the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, a frantic effort was underway to find and rescue victims. Television reports showed young women workers, some apparently semi-conscious, being pulled out by firefighters and troops.
Doctors at local hospitals said they were unable to cope with the number of victims brought in.
The building collapse, which follows a November fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that killed 112 people, has compounded concerns about worker safety and low wages in Bangladesh.
The two major incidents, and a third in January that killed seven people, could taint Bangladesh's reputation as a source of low-cost products and services and call attention to Western retailers and other companies that obtain products from the country. But industry people and worker's groups in the United States say the lure of cheap manufacturing costs will keep retailers and buyers turning to Bangladesh.
Edward Hertzman, a sourcing agent based in New York who also publishes the trade magazine Sourcing Journal says pressure from U.S. retailers to keep a lid on costs continues to foster unsafe conditions. Hertzaman's clients include clothing manufacturers and retailers like PacSun, Oxford Industries, Lucky, Buffalo.
"It is going to take much more than retailers issuing press releases or paying compensation to victims," Hertzman said. "They're going to have to stop beating up the factories and start paying higher prices."
Entry level wages in these factories start at 14 cents an hour, said Charles Kernaghan, with the The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. The non-profit works with factory workers in Bangladesh and other parts of the world to help better working standards.
"The companies will stay in Bangladesh despite all the problems...In China, a comparable wage would be at least $1 an hour," Kernaghan said.
Hertzman, whose trade publication has offices in Bangladesh, said New Wave Bottoms Limited occupied the second floor, Phantom Apparels Ltd on the third floor, Phantom Tack Ltd on the fourth floor and Ethar Textile Ltd on the fifth.
U.S. children's clothing retailer Children's Place said that while New Wave had manufactured clothes for the company in the past, it hadn't at the time of the accident.
The New Wave website listed 27 main buyers, including firms from Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Canada and the United States.