Retailers to compensate victims of Bangladesh disaster


By Ruma Paul and Serajul Quadir | Reuters

DHAKA (Reuters) – Two Western retailers have promised to compensate families of garment workers killed while making their clothes in a Bangladesh factory building that collapsed last week in the country’s worst industrial accident.

The pledge from Britain’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaw came after the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza was brought before a court in Dhaka on Monday, where lawyers and protesters chanted “hang him, hang him”.

At least 385 people were killed in the disaster, the latest incident to raise serious questions about worker safety and low wages in the poor South Asian country that relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.

With almost no hope left of finding further survivors, heavy machinery has been brought in to start clearing the mass of concrete and debris from the site in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from the capital Dhaka.

Eight people have been arrested – four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.

There were angry scenes as Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front, was led into court on Monday wearing a helmet and protective police jacket, witnesses said.

“Put the killer on the gallows, he is not worth any mercy or lenient penalty,” one onlooker outside the court shouted.

Rana, who was arrested on Sunday by the elite Rapid Action Battalion apparently trying to flee to India, was ordered to be held on remand for 15 days for interrogation.

Khalek, who officials said was named in documents as a legal owner of the Rana Plaza building, was arrested in Dhaka on Monday. Those being held face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.

Bangladesh does carry out the death penalty for murder and for most serious categories of manslaughter.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building, which housed several factories on the upper floors, but hundreds of the mostly female workers who are thought to have been inside remain unaccounted for.