The faintest of silver linings emerges from Bangladesh: a garment worker trapped for 17 days beneath the collapsed Rana Plaza building was discovered alive today. This is good news for the traumatized woman, Reshma, who was able to find enough food, water and oxygen space to survive, but doesn't make up for the fact that over 1,000 of her fellow workers have died since the structure collapsed in what may be the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry — one that could've easily been prevented.
The Rana Plaza building, now reduced to rubble, was in Dhaka, the national capital of Bangladesh, which is the world's second-largest clothing exporter after China. According to the New York Times, the building was illegally constructed "with permits obtained through political influence"; the owner, now in jail, was in the process of illegally adding upper floors so he could cram more people in there.
The disaster never would've happened if the owner hadn't acted like he was playing Jenga instead of presiding over thousands of people's livelihoods:
A day before the collapse, an engineer examined cracks in the structure and warned Mr. Rana, as well as owners of the garment factories, that the building was unsafe and should be closed. Instead, workers were told to come to their factories the next morning, and not long after the shifts began, the building collapsed.
Factory disasters are pretty much par for the course in Bangladesh, where the concept of worker safety is second to producing really cute t-shirts on the cheap. Last November, at least 112 workers died in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions Factory, which is used by Sears, Walmart and other global brands and retailers. Earlier this week, a smaller factory fire killed around eight people.
More than 3,000 people are thought to have been working in Rana Plaza when the structure collapsed. The death toll, now at 1,021, is expected to keep climbing.
Image via AP.