The death toll from the collapse of a garment factory complex in Bangladesh neared 700 on Tuesday after dozens more bodies were found in the rubble, nearly a fortnight after the disaster.
Army spokesman Shahid Ahsan Bhuiyan told agencies that the toll now stands at 693 but warned that it was likely to rise further as the recovery teams had only reached the fourth floor of the nine-storey building.
Around 3,000 garment workers were on shift at the Rana Plaza complex at the time of the collapse on the morning of April 24, making clothing for Western retailers such as Britain’s Primark and the Spanish label Mango.
Officials overseeing the disaster operation have said a total of 2,437 people have been rescued from the ruins of the building which housed a total of five garment factories in the town of Savar, a suburb of the capital Dhaka.
Efforts to identify the victims are being hampered by the decomposition of bodies. Recovery workers, who are drawn from the ranks of the army and fire service, have to wear masks and use air freshener.
Fearful that Western brand names may turn their back on Bangladesh, the government announced a new high-level panel on Monday to inspect thousands of garment factories for building flaws.
The April 24 collapse was the latest in a string of deadly accidents to hit the textile industry. A factory fire last November killed 111 garment workers.