Bangladesh Orders Factory Closings as Collapse Toll Hits 804

Bangladesh ordered 18 garment makers in two cities to close factories as the death toll from the collapse of a building last month rose to 804.

Two factories in Chittagong and 16 in Dhaka were ordered to shut operations, and the government will close any plant that’s found to be unsafe during inspections, Abdul Latif Siddique, minister for textiles, told reporters today.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association is using an emergency fund to start paying salaries to survivors and victims’ families of the April 24 collapse of a building that housed clothing factories, said Atiqul Islam, president of the group. About 700 workers had been paid last night after hundreds blocked a highway demanding compensation.

Garment factories in Bangladesh face increased scrutiny after the collapse of the building and a November fire that claimed 112 lives. The South Asian government, workers, employers and the International Labour Organization agreed to a plan to improve workers’ rights and safety. The 27-nation European Union is considering action under its trade rules to encourage changes in supply-chain operations.

The army’s attempt to recover more bodies from the rubble at Rana Plaza will continue for at least another week, Mir Rabbi, an army spokesman, said by phone. The death toll is now 804, police inspector Mohammad Asaduzzaman said by phone from Savar, where the building collapsed.

Murder Complaint

The wife of a male garment worker killed in the disaster filed a murder complaint on May 5 against Sohel Rana, owner of the building. Senior Judicial Magistrate Wasim Sheikh ordered an investigation into the complaint.

Rana and executives of four apparel makers housed in the structure in Savar, 24 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Dhaka, have been arrested and a court ordered their assets to be seized. Rana’s wife and father are also in police custody.

Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and labor activists have been considering an agreement to improve factory safety in Bangladesh for at least two years. Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest entertainment company, removed Bangladesh in March from a list of countries where partners can produce clothing and merchandise, according to a letter to licensees.

(Updates with latest death toll figure in first paragraph.)
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