DHAKA // Hundreds of survivors of last month's collapse of a building housing garment factories in Bangladesh demanded compensation yesterday, as the death toll from the country's worst-ever industrial disaster passed 700.
The police control room overseeing the recovery operation said the death toll stood at 705 as workers pulled more bodies out of the wreckage of the eight-storey building that was packed with workers at five garment factories when it collapsed on April 24. The factories were making clothing bound for major retailers around the world.
The disaster is the worst ever in the garment sector, surpassing the 1911 garment disaster in New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory, which killed 146 workers, and more recent tragedies such as a 2012 fire that killed about 260 people in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh that killed 112, also in 2012.
It is also one of the deadliest industrial accidents ever.
No one knows what the final toll will be, as the exact number of people inside Rana Plaza at the time of the collapse was unknown. More than 2,500 people were rescued.
Hundreds of garment workers who survived the disaster blocked a major motorway near the accident site in a Dhaka suburb yesterday to demand the payment of wages and other benefits. No violence was reported, although traffic was disrupted for hours.
Yousuf Harun, a government official, said they were working with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to ensure the workers get paid.
The workers, many who made little more than the national minimum wage of about Dh140 per month, are demanding at least four months in salary. The workers had set yesterday as the deadline for the payment of wages and other benefits.
Mr Harun said no salary remained unpaid except for the month of April and there was an agreement for the workers to receive an additional three months of pay. After a team from the garment association arrived at the protest and pledged to make the payment, the workers left the motorway, Mr Harun said.
The association had said on Monday that it was preparing a "complete list" of the workers employed in the factories and they would need a few more days to finish it and to clear the salary.
Bangladesh earns nearly Dh73.4 billion a year from exports of the garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe.
Authorities have not set any specific time frame to complete the recovery operation at the building site, saying they will continue until all bodies and debris are removed.
Officials say the building's owner illegally added three floors to Rana Plaza and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators.