Dhaka - Bangladesh defended on Tuesday its decision to
snub foreign aid after the collapse of a garment factory complex, where at
least 388 people died, as the UN revealed it had offered specialist help to
With the death toll from the country's worst ever
industrial disaster still rising, the government is facing criticism over its
handling of the tragedy and the lack of regulation blamed for the loss of life.
"The need for immediate foreign assistance was not
felt because our rescue operation has been sufficient and exemplary," Home
Secretary Mustak Ahmed told AFP, adding the government was "grateful"
for of help offers from Britain among others.
The UN's humanitarian advisor in Bangladesh Gerson
Brandao said that he had offered emergency disaster teams based in Singapore
and Abu Dhabi, within hours of the accident on Wednesday morning last week.
"These are a group of people who are experts. They
have dogs, micro cameras and other equipment that we do not have in
Bangladesh," Brandao told AFP.
Facing more angry protests near the accident site, where
workers took to the streets brandishing sticks, the government also announced
plans for another blitz of inspections as it came under pressure for an
improved safety regime.
Groups such as Britain's "fast fashion" label
Primark and Canada's supermarket giant Loblaw, whose clothes were found in the
wreckage, have come forward to offered compensation to the dead and injured.
Spanish label Mango and Italian group Benetton have also
admitted their products were recently manufactured in the building and they are
under pressure from campaign groups to contribute.
Although the exact number of people still missing is not
known, there were around 3 000 workers on shift at the time of the disaster and
more than 2 400 were rescued from the ruins.
As heavy-lifting equipment and cranes moved in at the
site on Tuesday, more bodies were expected to be found.
The shocking accident has again focused attention on the
safety record of the $20bn Bangladeshi garment industry, the second biggest
after China's, following a fire in November that killed 111.
Western brands, which have moved manufacturing to
low-cost and low-regulation countries such as Bangladesh, as well as consumers,
who wilfully overlook the plight of workers, have been criticised by
Rights activist Hana Shams Ahmed wrote on Facebook that
the Bangladesh government had spurned foreign rescue help because, "they
don't want this to be internationally discussed how easily preventable this
"Ultimately, the responsibility of this lies with
the government and its chain of corruption, negligence and greed," added
Most of the hundreds of the garment factories in Savar, a
suburb of the capital where the collapsed building is situated, were forced to
close again on Tuesday out of fear of unrest.
There were also sporadic protests and clashes that led
police to fire teargas, said industrial police assistant director M
"Tens of thousands of workers walked off their
factories. But only a few hundreds of workers joined demonstrations carrying
sticks," he told AFP.
At the accident site, distraught relatives awaiting news
of loved ones were increasingly critical of the recovery operation, fearing
bodies could be pulverised as a major clean-up operation began.
Yunus Khan, among a group of around 100 people still
awaiting news, told journalists that he feared "the use of this heavy
equipment will dash any chances of recovering the bodies".
Relatives have also turned their anger on the owner of
the eight-storey building, Sohel Rana, who made his first appearance in court
late on Monday after being detained at the border with India.
There were chants of "Hang the Killer!" as he
was brought before the court in Dhaka on charges of causing death through
negligence. He was remanded in custody for a further 15 days.