Everybody knew that the collapse of a crowded garment factory in Bangladesh was a tragedy, but based on the latest death toll, it appears we underestimated the historic proportions of this event. Bangladeshi authorities reported after a digging through rubble all day Thursday that the death told was not in the neighborhood of 70 or 80 people. If fact, it's about twice that. With 149 dead, this preventable accident is now higher than the famously deadly garment factory fire last year, when the workers were locked inside the inferno. (UPDATE: As of Thursday morning, AFP now puts the death toll at 200.) And that might still be lowballing. Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder told press that there are still "many" inside the building's rubble.
The story of collapse, if you haven't been following, is horrible. After workers reported massive cracks forming in the building, home to some 2,000 workers who operate on a 24-hour schedule, local news picked up on the story, but local management did nothing. Then, on Wednesday morning, the top floors collapsed killing, we now know, at least 149 and injuring at least 700. Images form the scene are absolutely heart-wrenching as armies of workers and locals alike, struggle to pull their friends from the rubble. This is, as we mentioned a second ago, after a similar accident claimed the lives of 112 workers last November. Instead of a building collapse it was a fire, but the warning signs were there and management ignored them.
As various apparel brands scramble to distance themselves from the accident, human rights advocates have to wonder if this is the tragedy that will actually effect change in Bangladeshi factories. But if last year's fire is evidence of what's to come, the answer is likely no. In the end, local authorities called the event an act of "sabotage" but couldn't provide any details beyond that.