'It happens everywhere,' minister says of collapse as death toll tops 500
Bangladesh's finance minister downplayed the impact of last week's factory-building collapse on his country's garment industry, saying he didn't think it was 'really serious' on Friday, hours after the 500th body was pulled from the debris.
Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith spoke as the government cracked down on those it blamed for the disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar. It suspended Savar’s mayor and arrested an engineer who had called for the building’s evacuation last week, but was also accused of helping the owner add three illegal floors to the eight-story structure.
Muhith said the disaster would not harm Bangladesh’s garment industry, which is by far the country’s biggest source of export income.
“The present difficulties ... well, I don’t think it is really serious — it’s an accident,” he said. “And the steps that we have taken in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen, they are quite elaborate and I believe that it will be appreciated by all.”
When asked if he was worried that foreign retailers might pull orders from his country, Muhith said he wasn’t: “These are individual cases of ... accidents. It happens everywhere.”
At the site of the collapse, the official death toll reached 501 Friday and was expected to climb. Workers carefully used cranes to remove the concrete rubble and continue the slow task of recovering bodies. The official number of missing has been 149 since Wednesday, though unofficial estimates are higher.
Walt Disney pulls out of Bangladesh
The Walt Disney Co, considered the world’s largest licenser with sales of nearly $40 billion, in March ordered an end to the production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh.