Death toll in Bangladesh building collapse rises to 161

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) - A garment factory building in Bangladesh that collapsed, killing at least 161 people, had been ordered evacuated after deep cracks became visible, but the factories flouted the order and continued working, officials said on Thursday.

The disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar came less than five months after a factory fire killed 112 people and underscored the unsafe conditions faced by Bangladesh's garment workers, who produce clothes for global brands worn around the world.

After the cracks were reported on Tuesday, the management of a local bank, which also had an office in the building, evacuated their workers and suspended their operations immediately.

But the garment factories continued working, ignoring the instructions of the local industrial police, said Mr Mostafizur Rahman, a director of the industrial police.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association had also asked the factories to suspend work starting Wednesday morning, just hours before the building fell.

On Thursday morning, the odour of rotting bodies permeated holes cut into the building and rescue workers continued to search for more survivors and victims.

Junior minister for Home Affairs, Shamsul Haque, said that by late Thursday morning a total of 2,000 people had been rescued from the wreckage.

The garment manufacturers' group said that the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers but it was not clear how many workers were in the building when it collapsed.

A clearer picture of the rescue operation is likely to be available by afternoon, officials said.