Details emerge in deadly clothing factory collapse

April 25, 2013

Death toll rises in Bangladesh as factory safety decried, Spain’s unemployment hits record high, and Iran’s unlikely al Qaeda ties explained. Today is Thursday, April 25, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

People mourn in front of the remains of their relatives, who died inside the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, in Savar, 19 miles outside Dhaka, April 25, 2013.  REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Cheap clothes and questions of worker saftey. Mostly female workers were killed when a building housing several textile factories collapsed in Bangladesh on Wednesday. The death toll climbed to at least 228 people today – a number local police said could continue to rise – in a disaster that once again highlights safety shortcomings in factories producing low-cost goods for Western companies:

In the evening, local residents were still pulling survivors and bodies from the wreckage of the Rana Plaza building in the commercial suburb of Savar, 20 miles outside the capital Dhaka, using crowbars and their bare hands in sweltering heat. More than 1,000 people were injured. “I thought there was an earthquake,” said Shirin Akhter, 22, who was starting her day at the New Wave Style workshop six floors up when the complex crumbled. Akhter was trapped for hours before breaking through a wall. She says her monthly wage was $38.

The building’s owner is on the run after officials filed cases against him and factory owners for ignoring warnings that the structure was unsafe. On Thursday, more than a thousand protesters called for punishment for factory owners. Fires and accidents have affected Bangladesh’s low-cost garment industry for years.

Spanish unemployment hits new high. Unemployment in Spain reached an unprecedented 27.2 percent, the highest rate since records began in the 1970s. The discrepancy between Spain’s healthy financial market and woeful unemployment record contributes to the EU’s recent concerns over the efficacy of austerity:

Joblessness has grown for seven quarters in a row, leaving more Spaniards without work than the entire population of Denmark, and the percentage rate now matches that of Greece, which is in the grips of a full-blown depression. Spain has slipped in an out of recession for the past five years. In the first quarter more businesses and individuals went into bankruptcy and default, further driving up bad loan rates in Spain’s troubled banking system and hitting profits at three of the country’s top five lenders, Santander, Caixabank and Sabadell.

Protesters stage regular demonstrations against austerity measures, and a march on parliament was expected today. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will announce a new round of economic measures on Friday, but few think he will be able to jumpstart the flailing economy and create jobs.

Spotlight on Iran’s complicated al Qaeda ties. After busting a plot to derail a commuter train, Canadian officials recently suggested that al Qaeda operatives in Iran were working with the two suspects. The relationship between al Qaeda and the Iranian government is complex:

Shi’ite Muslim Iran and strict Sunni militant group al Qaeda are natural enemies on either side of the Muslim world’s great sectarian divide. Yet intelligence veterans say that Iran, in pursuing its own ends, has in the past taken advantage of al Qaeda fighters’ need to shelter or pass through its territory. It is a murky relationship that has been fluid and, say some in the intelligence community, has deteriorated in recent years.

Canada doesn’t suspect official Iranian involvement in the foiled terror plot.

Nota Bene: South Korea proposed talks with the North about reopening a joint industrial complex in Kaesong.


So you want to intervene in Syria? – Russia, China, and Iran might have something to say about that. (Foreign Policy)

Swissclusivity – Switzerland will restrict immigration from Western European countries starting next month. (The Associated Press)

Save the Garden of Eden – An Iraqi emigre tries to repair Iraq’s ancient marshland. (The Atlantic)

Sorry about that “crime” – Serbia’s president apologized for Srebrenica crimes, but avoided the word “genocide.” (BBC)

What invasion? – Japan’s president dabbles in revisionist history (The Wall Street Journal)

From the File:

  • Putin says Russia, U.S. work on security after Boston bombs
  • Israel shoots down drone from Lebanon: Israeli military
  • Syria rebels launch attack in central Hama after months of calm
  • Letta sees improving chances of forming Italy government
  • U.N. expert says Bahrain canceled visit on torture investigation


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