JURAIN, Bangladesh (AP) — Dozens of Bangladeshi garment workers whose bodies were too battered or decomposed to be identified were buried in a mass funeral, a week after the eight-story building they worked in collapsed, killing more than 400 people and injuring thousands.
Hundreds attended the traditional Muslim funeral and many more watched from the roofs of nearby buildings Wednesday as the bodies, rotting in the spring heat, were brought to the graveyard on the back of flatbed trucks.
Onlookers covered their noses. One woman rushed through the crowd to the back of a truck wailing that one body was her sister's. She begged to take it as family members held her to keep her from collapsing.
Local men and boys recited a prayer for the dead. Then, 34 bodies were unloaded and placed in the graves.
Cemetery workers have dug several long rows of graves where scores more unidentified bodies are expected to be buried in the coming days.
Police said Thursday morning that 10 more bodies were recovered overnight, bringing the death toll to 420. Rescue workers believe many more bodies are still buried on the ground level of the building. They said it could take another five days to clear tons of rubble with cranes and cutting machines.
"I would not have to take part in this if the government acted more responsibly," said Rasel Islam, a 32-year-old man who attended the burial.
Five garment factories were housed in the illegally constructed Rana Plaza building that collapsed April 24. The disaster and a garment factory fire five months earlier that killed 112 people exposed the unsafe conditions plaguing Bangladesh's $20 billion-a-year garment industry that supplies many global retailers.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was shocked that some of the workers were living on 38 euros ($50) a month.
"This was the payment of these people who have died ... and this is called 'slave labor,'" he said. Vatican Radio said the pope made the remarks during a private Mass at the Vatican.
"Not paying a just (wage), not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God!" Francis was quoted as saying.
He added: "People are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power. What point have we come to? To the point that we are not aware of this dignity of the person; this dignity of labor."
EU officials said they are considering action including changes to Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free access to the giant EU market to "incentivize" responsible management of the nation's garment industry. Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, and its trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, called in a statement for Bangladesh authorities to act immediately to ensure factories comply with international labor standards.
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