DHAKA, Bangladesh — Search teams resumed their rain-interrupted work Sunday as the death toll from the collapse of a Bangladesh garment factory building continued to climb past 1,100.
Overnight rainstorms had halted the recovery efforts, but by late morning the teams were back at work using hydraulic cranes, bulldozers, shovels and iron cutters as they continued looking for bodies more than two weeks after the eight-story building collapsed.
“We are still removing the rubble very carefully as dead bodies are still coming up,” said Maj. Moazzem Hossain, a rescue team leader. “The dead bodies are decomposed and beyond recognition.”
Hossain said they are trying to identify the bodies by their identity cards. “If we get the ID cards with the bodies then we are lucky,” he said.
On Friday, the search teams received a much-needed boost when they found a young seamstress who had managed to survive for 17 days on dried food and bottled and rain water.
More than 2,500 people were rescued shortly after the April 24 disaster, but until 19-year-old Reshma Begum was found the crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive.
Doctors said late Saturday that Begum’s condition was improving after treatment for dehydration, insomnia, stress and weakness.
Before Begum’s rescue, the last survivor was found April 28, but her story ended in tragedy. As workers tried to free Shahina Akter, a fire broke out and she died of smoke inhalation.
Rescue workers said 1,120 bodies had been recovered by late Saturday from the ruins of the fallen Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. They said 780 bodies had been handed over to families.
The accident, the world’s worst garment industry disaster, has raised alarm about working conditions in Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry, which makes clothing for major retailers around the world.
Officials say the owner of Rana Plaza illegally added three floors and allowed five garment factories in the building to install heavy machines and generators, even though the structure was not designed to support such equipment.
The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained.