The death toll from Bangladesh's horrific factory collapse has topped 650 people, and rescuers believe there could be dozens, if not hundreds, more bodies still trapped inside. Workers have switched to heavy construction equipment to sift through the mountains of rubble and given up hope finding anyone else alive. The "last" victim was nearly saved more than a week ago, as rescuers scrambled to pull a 32-year-old woman out of the rubble alive. Unfortunately, in the final attempt to her free, a fire was started that killed her and one of the rescuers. More than 2,400 people were pulled from the building in the first few days after the collapse, but the official death toll as of Monday afternoon was 661.
Local authorities are planning to pursue murder charges against the owner of the factory, who ignored building codes and safety measures when he illegally added three floors to the top of the structure and allowed tenants to install heavy equipment. Engineers say the building was not designed to hold manufacturing equipment (it was originally meant to be a mall), and that rumbling from large generators and machinery contributed to the weakening of the building. The owners of some the businesses may also be held responsible for sending workers back into the building even after structural problems were discovered. Murder convictions in Bangladesh can result in a death penalty.
Unrest in the capital city of Dhaka added to the nation's woes this weekend, only this time the protests were not coming from angry garment workers and victims families. Islamist organizations launched massive demonstrations on Sunday calling for a new anti-blasphemy law to be passed, but the protest turned violent and clashes with riot police left 14 people dead. Three more security officers were killed on Monday as protests spread beyond Dhaka. The leader of an Islamic coalition group, Hefazat-e Islam, was taken into police custody and removed from the capital, but police were careful to say he had not been arrested. With hundreds of families in Savar still waiting to learn the fate of loved ones who worked in the collapsed building, the last thing Bangladesh needs is more chaos and tragedy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.