Photos by A. M. Ahad and Andrew Biraj for Reuters

Bangladeshi authorities have arrested at least seven people, including two factory owners and two engineers, three days after this week’s deadly Rana Plaza building collapse outside the capital of Dhaka, according to Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, the state-run news agency. Although the whereabouts of Mohammed Sohel Rana, the building’s owner, are still unknown, BSS reports that Rana’s wife and cousin have been detained to pressure him to surrender. Since the eight-story building imploded into a mass of concrete and mortar on Wednesday, the death toll has risen to at least 348. Although 29 people were pulled from the rubble Saturday morning, rescue workers admitted to reporters that the voices are getting weaker.

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Bangladesh, Dhaka, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, Primark, Mango, Tazreen Fashions, Rana Plaza, Walmart, C&A, Primark, KiK, Mango, The Children's Place, Dress Barn, Joe Fresh, Benetton

DAY FOUR

“We are still getting response from survivors though they are becoming weaker slowly,” Ali Ahmed Khan, the head of the fire services, told the Associated Press. He noted that rescue workers have now reached the ground floor of the debris through 25 narrow holes they have drilled. “The building is very vulnerable. Any time the floors could collapse. We are performing an impossible task, but we are glad that we are able to rescue so many survivors.”

Witnesses describe an air thick with the smell of “death and cheap perfume.”

Witnesses describe an air thick with the smell of “death and cheap perfume,” as workers frantically spray decomposing bodies, kept at a makeshift morgue at the nearby Adharchandra High School before being handed over to families, with air-fresheners to mask the rotting stench. Many people continue to mill around, waving photos of missing loved ones.

Military spokesman Shahinul Islam said 2,429 survivors, out of the roughly 3,122 garment workers the factories in the building employed, have been accounted for.

Police say they ordered an evacuation of Rana Plaza on Tuesday after cracks appeared in the structure. Shops and a bank branch on the lower floors were immediately closed, but the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors told employees to return to work on Wednesday morning or they wouldn’t be paid.

KEEP READING: WHO’S TO BLAME? >

Bangladesh, Dhaka, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, Primark, Mango, Tazreen Fashions, Rana Plaza, Walmart, C&A, Primark, KiK, Mango, The Children's Place, Dress Barn, Joe Fresh, Benetton

BLAME GAME

Although the U.S. State Department said Thursday it wasn’t able to provide details about whether American companies were connected to operations in the collapsed building, labor activists who entered the site have found invoices, cutting orders, and labels linking several major U.S. and European retailers to the firms that occupied the plaza.

Labor activists who entered the site have documents linking major U.S. and European retailers to the firms that occupied the plaza.

British retailer Primark, which has 257 stores across Europe, confirmed that one of its suppliers occupied the second floor of the building, adding it was “shocked and deeply saddened by the appalling incident” and will be working with other retailers to review the South Asian country’s approach to factory standards.

Loblaw, a Canadian retailer that markets the apparel brand Joe Fresh, said one factory made a small number of Joe Fresh items for the company.

Other textile businesses in the building, according to documents obtained by reporters, included Phantom Apparel, New Wave Style, New Wave Bottoms, and New Wave Brothers, which produce clothing for U.S. and European brands such as The Children’s Place, Cato, Dress Barn, Spain’s Mango, and Italy’s Benetton. A Benetton spokesman denied that any of the factories were suppliers to the company, however, while Mango claimed it had only an unfulfilled sample order with Phantom Apparel at the plaza.

Ether Tex, another of the factories in the building, named on its website Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, as one of its customers. Walmart released a statement to say it’s currently investigating the situation.

On Friday, labor groups also distributed photos of garments with labels from JCPenney and Spanish retailer El Corte Inglés, from the site of the collapse.

KEEP READING: A DEEPER PROBLEM…>

Bangladesh, Dhaka, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, Primark, Mango, Tazreen Fashions, Rana Plaza, Walmart, C&A, Primark, KiK, Mango, The Children's Place, Dress Barn, Joe Fresh, Benetton

A DEEPER PROBLEM

The disaster is the worst-ever for the South Asian country’s booming garment industry, outstripping the Tazreen Fashions fire that killed at least 112 people in November. Despite widespread pledges by Western brands and retailers to improve worker-safety standards, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where rock-bottom wages of about $38 a month have made it the planet’s second-largest garment exporter.

The disaster is the worst-ever for the South Asian country’s booming garment industry, outstripping the Tazreen Fashions fire that killed at least 112 people in November.

Walmart, one of the companies implicated in the Tazreen Fashions incident, even played a key role in blocking a proposal to have global corporations underwrite safety improvements at their Bangladeshi factories, according to the minutes of an April 2011 meeting and the testimony of several attendees.

The world’s No. 1 retailer has also refused to cave to pressure from labor groups to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, a legally binding, first-of-its-kind contract governing health-and-safety inspections at thousands of facilities in Bangladesh. Signatories would agree to publicly report building hazards at factories, ban subcontracting to high-risk facilities, finance renovations and fire-safety training, educate workers on how they can protect their rights and their safety, and publish audit results by independent building inspectors.

So far, only PVH Corp., which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, and Tchibo, a German coffee retailer that also sells clothes, have agreed to participate, but only on the condition that other companies sign on, as well.

[Via Associated Press]