Scores are trapped as illegal fabric factory collapses in Bangladesh

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The Independent Online

At least 17 people were killed and scores of workers were trapped after a nine-storey garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh.

At least 17 people were killed and scores of workers were trapped after a nine-storey garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh.

Eighty people were pulled alive from the debris but at least 250 people were believed to be in the building at the time. Rescuers were last night trying to bring heavy lifting equipment to the building near the capital, Dhaka, which ministers said had been built without planning permission. The narrow roads leading to the site, hordes of mourners, swamps and paddyfields were all hampering rescue efforts, officials and witnesses said.

Abdul Hye, a security officer, said that at least 250 people had been working the night shift at the Shahriar Fabrics building at Palashbari, 18 miles from Dhaka, which collapsed an hour after midnight.

"In a few minutes it crumbled like a house of cards," a witness said. Police said it was probably triggered by a boiler explosion. A pile of bricks and concrete slabs is all that remains. Army medical units supplied bottled water and medicine to trapped survivors after cutting holes in the building's roof. Rescuers said some of those trapped on the upper two floors may be alive but there was no chance for those under the lower floors.

Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia flew to Palashbari in the afternoon. "I want you to mobilise all strength and resources to speed up the rescue efforts and not to let anyone die due to negligence," the Prime Minister said. She promised the government would do everything possible to help survivors and families of the dead. Shahid Alam, a senior official of the Dhaka Development Authority, said the factory had been built on marshland without planning permission. Lutfuzzaman Babar, the State Minister for Home Affairs, said that the construction was illegal. The whereabouts of the building's owners was not immediately known.

People at the site used mobile phones to try to contact relatives trapped beneath the rubble. "Until a few minutes ago, my brother Jamal was calling me on my mobile for help," Ruma Begum said. "Now he has gone quiet. I am still trying to reach him, but there is no response. Only Allah knows what has happened."

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