Bosses at the Primark clothing chain say they are “shocked and saddened” as 96 people are killed and hundreds injured in an eight-storey building in Bangladesh containing garment suppliers.
It has emerged workers inside the devastated building, on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, were suppliers to the Primark budget clothing chain and other UK brands.
The Bangladeshi government has confirmed at least 96 deaths after the upper floors of the structure fell on to the lower floors on Wednesday morning. About 600 people have been rescued. Trapped workers were filmed using rolls of fabric as makeshift escape slides to get out of the ruins.
In a statement to Channel 4 News a spokesperson at Primark said: “The company is shocked and deeply saddened by this appalling incident at Savar, near Dhaka, and expresses its condolences to all of those involved.
“Primark confirms that one of its suppliers occupied the second floor of the eight-storey building, which housed several suppliers to the garment industry making clothing for a number of brands.
“Primark has been engaged for several years with NGOs and other retailers to review the Bangladeshi industry’s approach to factory standards. Primark will push for this review to also include building integrity.
The company is shocked and deeply saddened by this appalling incident at Savar, near Dhaka, and expresses its condolences to all of those involved. Primark
“Meanwhile Primark’s ethical trade team is at this moment working to collect information, assess which communities the workers come from, and to provide support where possible.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Matalan told Channel 4 News: “We can confirm that New Wave has been a supplier to Matalan although we don’t have any current production with them.
“We are deeply saddened by the news and we have been trying to get in touch with our contacts since we heard to check if we are able to assist them.”
Around 2,000 people were understood to be inside the Rana Plaza building, which houses both factories and a shopping centre and is located in Savar, 19 miles outside Dhaka. Workers in the building said it had developed such severe cracks that it had been reported on local news channels.
They hesitated to enter the building Wednesday morning, said Abdur Rahim, who worked in a garment factory on the fifth floor, but a manager assured them there was no problem, so they went inside.
Mr Rahim said: “We started working. After about an hour or so the building collapsed suddenly.” His next memory was of regaining consciousness outside the building.
He said his mother and father, who worked with him in the factory, were trapped inside.
“I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound, but couldn’t understand what was happening,” said Sohra Begum a worker at one of the garment factories Rana Plaza. “I ran and was hit by something on my head.”
One resident looking at the scene said: “It looks like an earthquake has struck here.”
I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound, but couldn’t understand what was happening. Sohra Begum
Tens of thousands of people gathered at the site to help search for friends and relatives. Firefighters and soldiers using drilling machines and cranes worked together with local volunteers in the search for other survivors from the building.
An enormous section of the concrete structure appeared to have splintered like twigs.
An arm jutted out of one section of rubble. The lifeless body of a woman covered in dust could be seen in another. A firefighter carried the body of what appeared to be a teenager from the area.
Reports indicated the death toll could rise.
“We had sent two people inside the building and we could rescue at least 20 people alive. They also told us that at least 100 to 150 people are injured and about 50 dead people are still trapped inside this floor,” said Mohammad Humayun, a supervisor at one of the garment factories.
Mohammad Asaduzzaman, in charge of the area’s police station, said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday.
Buildings in the crowded city of Dhaka are sometimes erected without permission and many do not comply with construction regulations. Dozens died when a garment factory collapsed in the same area eight years ago.
In November, more than 100 were killed when a fire swept through a garment factory on Dhaka’s outskirts.