On Wednesday April 24th, 2013, tragedy struck the country of Bangladesh. Considered one of the deadliest garment-factory accidents in history (Fairchild, 2013), the Rana Plaza, in the district of Dhaka, collapsed due to structural damage. Once an eight-story commercial building, the Plaza crumbled to nothing but a heap of concrete and fabric bolts. The building housed clothing factories, apartments, a bank, and several local shops. The day prior to the Plaza’s collapse, cracks in the foundation were found and warnings were issued to avoid using the building. The shops and the bank on the lower floors were immediately closed until further notice. The entire building was evacuated, however later in the day, the building’s owner Sohel Rana reported to the media that the building was deemed safe and workers should return the next day (Manik & Yardley, 2013). Ignoring the warnings of engineers and police, the garment workers were ordered to return the following day. Managers threatened to withhold a month’s pay from workers who refused to come to work. The building collapsed minutes before 9 a.m. during rush-hour traffic, killing over 1,100 people and injuring approximately 2,500 hundred. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president confirmed that 3,639 workers were in the building at the time of the collapse. (Siddiqui, 2014).
The day after the Plaza collapsed, the Dhaka city development authority filed a case against the owner of the building and the five garment factories operating inside it. By June 1st 2015, over 42 people have been charged over the disaster, including owner Sohel Rana, his parents, and various government officials and engineers, due to their direct role behind the deaths of over 1,100 people due to the collapse.
Initially, investigators said the accused would be charged with culpable homicide, but the charges changed to murder due to the severity of the accident, which police reported as a “mass killing” (The Associated Press, 2015). The investigators said the shift to murder is due to the fact that Rana, his staff, and the management of the factories had forced their workers to enter the building, despite it being deemed as unsafe. If convicted of murder, the defendants could face the death penalty (Aljazeera America, 2015).
In a separate case, the accused will also face charges of safety violations and a breach in construction rules, due to the three additional floors that were added to the building without a permit, and the conversion of the building from office space to factory use.
On the Canadian home-front, a class action suit from a Toronto Law firm is seeking $2 Billion in damages from Joe Fresh, the brand for Loblaw Co. Ltd, one of the many clothing retailers who had factory space within the Plaza. The firm states that the defendants knew prior to the accident that “Bangladesh factories had an extremely poor record of workplace safety and industrial building standards including garment factories, that there had been a recent history of very serious accidents and collapses at garment factories in Bangladesh in the period immediately preceding the collapse at Rana Plaza.” (Shaw, 2015).
After two years, the investigation is still on-going.
Fairchild, Caroline. “Bangladesh Building Collapse Death Toll Tops 500; Engineer Whistleblower Arrested”. Huffington Post. 2 May 2013. Web. 12 October 2015. Retrieved From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/02/bangladesh-death-toll-tops-500_n_3199568.html
Manik, Jufikar Ali, and Yardley, Jim. “Building Collapse in Bangladesh Leaves Scores Dead.” The New York Times. 24 April 2015. Web. 12 October 2015. Retrieved From: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/world/asia/bangladesh-building-collapse.html?hp
Shaw, Hollie. “Class Action Suit Seeks $2 Billion from Loblaw, Joe Fresh over 2013 Bangladesh Garment Factory Collapse”. Financial Post. 30 April 2015. Web. 12 October 2015. Retrieved From: http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/class-action-suit-seeks-2-billion-from-loblaw-joe-fresh-over-2013-bangladesh-garment-factory-collapse
Siddiqui, Sadaf Saaz. “From Under the Rubble”. The Daily Star. 25 April 2014. Web. 12 October 2015. Retrieved From: http://www.thedailystar.net/from-under-the-rubble-21266
The Associated Press. “Bangladesh to lay murder charges in 2013 garment factory collapse”. CBC News. 1 June 2015. Web. 12 October 2015. Retrieved From: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bangladesh-to-lay-murder-charges-in-2013-garment-factory-collapse-1.3094924
“Bangladesh files murder charges over Rana Plaza collapse”. Aljazeera America. 1 June, 2015. Web 12 October 2015. Retrieved From: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/1/bangladesh-garment-factory-murder.html