SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Nearly three weeks after a Bangladesh garment-factory building collapsed, the search for the dead ended Monday at the site of the worst disaster in the history of the global garment industry. The death toll: 1,127.
Mohammed Amir Hossain Mazumder, deputy director of fire service and civil defense, told The Associated Press the search for bodies from the April 24 collapse was called off at 6 p.m. (1200GMT). "Now the site will be handed over to police for protection. There will be no more activities from fire service or army," he said.
Bulldozers and other vehicles have been removed from the building site, which will be fenced with bamboo sticks. Red flags have been erected around the site to bar entry.
The last body was found on Sunday night. A special prayer service will be held Tuesday to honor the dead, said army Brig. Gen. Mohammad Siddiqul Alam Shikder.
For more than 19 days Rana Plaza had been the scene of frantic rescue efforts, anguished families and the overwhelming smell of decaying flesh.
Miracles were few, but on Friday, search teams found Reshma Begum, a seamstress who survived under the rubble for 17 days on dried food and bottled and rain water.
Begum spoke to reporters Monday from the hospital where she is being treated in a Dhaka suburb. She told them she never expected to be rescued alive, and she vowed, "I will not work in a garment factory again."
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building focused global attention on hazardous conditions in Bangladesh's powerful garment industry. On Monday, the government agreed to allow the country's garment workers to form trade unions without permission from factory owners as part of growing concessions for industry reform.
Working conditions in the $20 billion industry are grim, a result of government corruption, desperation for jobs, and industry indifference. Minimum wages for garment workers are among the lowest in the world at 3,000 takas ($38) a month.