DHAKA: The death toll from the collapse of a garment factory complex in Bangladesh rose to 1,125 on Sunday after 15 more bodies were found in the rubble overnight, 19 days after the disaster struck.
Senior government official Zillur Chowdhury told AFP that the death toll in one of the world's worst industrial disasters “stands at 1,125” and could rise further as cranes and bulldozers have yet to move all the rubble.
More than 3,000 garment workers were on shift at the nine-storey Rana Plaza complex, where they made clothing for Western retailers including Britain's Primark and Spain's Mango when the building caved in on April 24.
Officials overseeing the disaster operation have said a total of 2,438 people have been rescued from the ruins of the building which housed a total of five garment factories in the town of Savar, a suburb of the capital Dhaka.
An eighteen-year-old garment worker known only as Reshma was the last to be pulled out alive on Friday after she spent 17 days under the rubble. Doctors said she was recovering at a military hospital and was out of danger.
“She is fine and improving fast. I talked to her just a few minutes back.
She said she had a good sleep and had her breakfast,” military doctor Fakrul Islam told AFP.
Islam, who is part of the medical team treating the seamstress, said: “Her mother also spent the night with her in the bed next to her. She'll be staying with her until she recuperates fully.”
Major General Chowdhury Hassan Suhrawardy who is heading the rescue operation told a press briefing late Saturday that Reshma survived by drinking rainwater and eating “some food” from the lunch boxes of co-workers.
Scores of distraught people continued to mass at the disaster site, desperate for news of their loved ones as efforts to identify the victims were hampered by the decomposition of bodies.
Recovery workers, drawn from the ranks of the army and fire service, wore masks and used air freshener as they collected DNA evidence to identify the bodies so some compensation could be paid to their families.
Fearful that Western brand names may turn their back on Bangladesh, the government announced a new high-level panel last week, which would inspect thousands of clothing factories for building flaws.
The April 24 collapse was the latest in a string of deadly accidents to hit the garment industry.
A factory fire in Dhaka killed eight people on Thursday. Another fire last November killed 111 garment workers, the worst blaze in the history of the country's textile industry.