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What was ‘Rana Plaza disaster’ in Bangladesh? How building collapse crushed 1,134 people to death in 2013

The nine-storey Rana Plaza building collapsed in 2013, one of the biggest industrial disasters in history, killing 1,134 people and injuring 2,000 workers.

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Rana Plaza collapse: On the tenth anniversary of the greatest catastrophe in the history of the clothing industry, campaigners warn that the battle for safe working conditions and fair pay in Bangladesh is still ongoing.

The collapse of a factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where clothing was being produced for foreign brands like Primark, Bonmarché, and Canada's Loblaw, resulted in 1,134 deaths and at least 2,000 injuries on April 24, 2013. Thousands of factory workers were compelled to report to work on the day of the collapse, despite many of them raising concerns. 

While businesses on the lower floors of the building had immediately closed when structural cracks were discovered the day before, thousands of factory workers were forced to do the same.

The Rana Plaza building's owner is still behind bars, but the murder trial against him and other defendants, including factory owners and local officials, has been going on for nearly seven years now with no convictions.

(Also Read: Pakistani-Canadian journalist Tarek Fatah passes away at 73 after prolonged illness)

Inadequate building materials were used to construct Rana Plaza on the site of a pond that had been filled in, and additional stories were added to increase the building's size above what was permitted. Authorities had allowed the structure, which was initially intended for commercial use but was later converted to industrial use and occupied by five garment companies, which is why it fell. It collapsed because earlier audits were insufficient and warnings were disregarded.

The collapse was triggered by vibrations from diesel generators switched on following a power outage.

On the morning when Rana Plaza, a nine-story building crowded with garment factories, collapsed, trade union leader Babul Akhter was working at Bangladesh's labour ministry in Dhaka. Around 20 kilometres outside the city, in the Savar area, he hurried to the scene. He recalls hearing the muted cacophony of trapped workers' cries coming from the rubble, which sounded like honeybees buzzing.

Campaigners claim that workers in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest clothing exporter after China, are still underpaid and can face harassment for belonging to a union, while factory owners endure harsh business practices from brands like delaying payments or abruptly cancelling or drastically reducing orders.

(Also Read: Woman’s undergarments, blood stains: What Uttar Pradesh police found inside Atiq Ahmed’s office)

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress in the UK, said: “Ten years after more than a thousand workers died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, labour rights abuses are still rife in Bangladesh and many are still working in unsafe conditions.”

One of the strictest workplace safety agreements in the world was established as a result of the disaster, bringing together brands, manufacturers, and union leaders to inspect and repair structures and inform workers of their rights. 

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