Wake-up call for Bangladesh’s building industry which may never be answered writes Irin for Asia Sentinel

The eight-storey building that collapsed on April 24 in Bangladesh, killing at least 930, housed five garment factories that employed at least 3,000 workers and placed weight on the floors almost six times greater than the building was intended to bear, according to a still unpublished early damage assessment by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center.

The study, conducted on the day of the collapse, revealed how a building intended for retail merchants was being used for industrial purposes. Support columns were erected haphazardly. Four huge electrical generators were on the third and fourth floors, possibly contributing to the vibrations that brought the building down. Building materials and methods were below par.

Pic: AP.

Authorities forced 18 factories to shut down to comply with safety standards although six somehow got up and running again. The Office of the US Trade Representative, Department of State, and Department of Labor, meanwhile, convened a conference call with 70 retailers and manufacturers that do business in Bangladesh to discuss coordinating efforts to improve working conditions. None of the companies said they planned to scale production.

“This is a wake-up call for us because a lot of construction is going on in Dhaka and other cities, so we are definitely trying to find out the solution,” said Abdus Salam, a senior research engineer in the government’s Housing and Building Research Institute.

Experts say the building was but one example of a broken system for authorizing, carrying out and monitoring construction. Tens of thousands more buildings – and millions of people inside them – could face the same fate, said Anisur Rahman, an urban planner with ADPC’s office in Bangladesh.

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