Dhaka building collapse death toll passes 400 on May Day

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Bangladeshi people and garments workers march in the street demanding the death sentence for owner of Rana Plaza, Sohel Rana following the eight-storey building collapse in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 30, 2013.

Credit:

MUNIR UZ ZAMAN

Thousands marched in Bangladesh's capital city of Dhaka on May Day, protesting the country's deadliest industrial disaster that officials said Wednesday had killed more than 400 workers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had called for "cool heads," but workers chanted "Hang the killers" and "Hang the factory owners," referring to Mohammed Sohel Rana, Abdul Khalek and others arrested in connection with the April 24 building collapse.

"The owner of the building ... should be hanged to death and compensation should be given to the injured and those who died," labor leader Moshrefa Mishu told Reuters. "A healthy and safe atmosphere should be made in the factories."

Kamrul Anam of the Bangladesh Textile and Garments Workers League said people were angry at "the murder" of their colleagues. "We want the severest punishment possible for those responsible for this tragedy," he told Agence France-Presse.

A list compiled from relatives shows that 149 people are missing and could still be trapped dead or alive underneath the rubble of the Rana Plaza, which had housed five factories before the collapse.

"My brother has died. My sister has died. Their blood will not be valueless," one protester shouted through a loudspeaker during a May Day protest.

In response to the building collapse, the EU has suggested possible trade action against Bangladesh, which according to Reuters, enjoys "preferential access to EU markets for its garments" with duty-free and quota-free trade.

“As Bangladesh’s largest trade partner, the EU is very concerned about the labor conditions, including health and safety provisions, established for workers in factories across the country,” the statement said

“In light of all these events, the European Union calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure that factories across the country comply with international labor standards including International Labor Organization conventions,” the statement added.