Wal-Mart, Benetton Linked to Collapsed Bangladesh Factory; Death Toll Rises to 250
The collapse of a building housing five garment factories outside Dhaka, Bangladesh has killed at least 250 people and left over 1,000 injured. Cracks in the eight -story building were discovered on Tuesday, prompting an order by local police to have the building evacuated. However, according to the Guardian, factory supervisors ignored the order and threatened pay cuts for workers who failed to return the next day.
The Associated Press reports that the building housed companies claiming to produce clothing for Wal-Mart, The Children’s Place, Dress Barn, Benetton, and other major international retailers. According to the AP, Benetton has denied purchasing clothing from the building’s factories and Wal-Mart says it is conducting an investigation. In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, The Children’s Place confirmed that it had previously sold clothes made in one of the factories but stated that none of their apparel was in production at the time of the collapse. Dress Barn has also confirmed a previous relationship with one of the factories although saying, according the Washington Post, that no new apparel had been purchased from the factory since 2010 “to its knowledge.”
Though it remains unclear how many survivors are trapped, a Bangladeshi military official says that an urgent and ongoing rescue effort has pulled over 2,000 people from the rubble. Outrage over the incident, and over safety conditions within Bangladesh’s booming garment industry in general, has brought thousands of protestors to Dhaka’s streets, according to CNN.
The incident is Bangladesh’s third major garment industry disaster in six months. In November, a fire at a factory near Dhaka that had produced clothing for Wal-Mart and Sears killed at least 112 people and left many more injured. Seven workers died in another factory blaze in Dhaka in January after supervisors reportedly locked an exit door.
Thanks to business from foreign companies seeking cheap labor and lax regulations, Bangladesh’s garment industry has ballooned to account for 80 percent of the country’s exports. Bangladesh is on track to surpass China as the world’s largest apparel manufacturer within seven years—a frightening prospect for labor activists who see Wednesday’s disaster as yet another sign that the Bangladeshi factories need serious regulation.