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News Wrap: At Least 87 Dead After Building Collapses in Bangladesh

April 24, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Rescuers in Bangladesh worked frantically today in the ruins of an eight-story building. It collapsed this morning, killing at least 87 people and injuring dozens more. The disaster, near the capital city of Dhaka, focused attention again on a garment industry that supplies major U.S. chains.

We have a report narrated by John Sparks of Independent Television News.

JOHN SPARKS, Independent Television News: This mangled pile was home to four textile factories and a shopping mall.

But at 8:30 this morning, the structure began to shake. Pillars snapped, the floors collapsed, and the world went dark, said one. It’s thought there were 2,000 people inside at the time. A huge crowd gathered in this suburb of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, as workers used rolls of fabric to make their escape. Others pitched in, searching for survivors, working together to carry them out. Many simply waited and prayed for their loved ones.

SIRAJ MIAH, Bangladesh: My wife went to work this morning, and I have been looking for her, but I can’t find her anywhere.

JOHN SPARKS: Young children may have been left in a number of crèches located in the building. And locals say scores of people, perhaps hundreds, are still trapped inside.

ABDUS SALAM, Bangladesh: I went into the building. I saw a lot of people stuck inside. I rescued some, but many can’t get out.

JOHN SPARKS: This catastrophe raises difficult questions for officials and company bosses. Locals say cracks appeared in the building yesterday. It was even reported on television stations.

But the factory supervisors said it was safe to work. Poor safety conditions were highlighted last November, when 112 lost their lives in a fire at another facility. When the alarm sounded, managers told employees to continue working because it was only a drill. Clothes bound for U.S. giants Wal-Mart and Sears were found in the charred remains and campaigners criticized them for failing to protect workers, although both firms blame their suppliers for using the factory without their permission.

Today’s disaster is unlikely to slow a booming industry, which thrives on the world’s lowest labor costs.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Iraq, at least 51 people were killed in a second day of violence between the Shiite-led government and Sunni tribesmen. A gun battle erupted when security forces tried to clear armed Sunnis from a town northeast of Baghdad. There was more killing in at least two other cities one day after Iraqi troops stormed a Sunni protest camp, killing 56 people.

A leading opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin went back on trial today, claiming he’s the victim of political revenge. Alexei Navalny organized major protests against Putin’s return to power last year. Now he’s charged with embezzling half-a-million dollars in timber from a state-owned company in 2009. Today, a court in Kirov refused to throw out the charges, and Navalny cried foul.

ALEXEI NAVALNY, Russian Opposition Leader: We asked the judge to be replaced. Our appeal that the case be returned to the prosecutors has not been approved, which is yet further evidence of the obvious fact that the case is absolutely politically motivated and the judge is restricted in making independent decisions. The judge has rejected our appeal that he be replaced.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Putin’s government denies using the courts to crush dissent.

A new strain of bird flu has now spread to Taiwan, after killing 22 people in mainland China to date. That word came today as the World Health Organization said the strain is one of the most lethal yet. WHO scientists reported the H7N9 strain jumps from birds to people more easily than previous strains did. So far, though, there’s little evidence that it can spread easily between humans.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration went before Congress today, defending furloughs of nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers. The unpaid days off have led to some flight delays, but Michael Huerta told a House hearing the decision was unavoidable, in the face of mandatory budget cuts.

Republican Congressman Hal Rogers and others called for more flexibility.

REP. HAL ROGERS, R-Ky.: You imposed 11 days of furloughs across all FAA employees, regardless of how critical those employees are to the mission of safe, efficient air traffic control. Can you explain?

MICHAEL HUERTA, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator: What we came to the conclusion was that the national airspace system is an interconnected network. Weather phenomena or how aircraft are moved throughout the system doesn’t make any distinction between large hub facilities and small air facilities.

The fact is that over 70 percent of our operations budget is devoted to payroll, and the agency cannot put itself in the position of choosing winners and losers.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A White House spokesman said today the administration is now willing to consider legislation to keep the controllers on the job.

The people of Newtown, Conn., have rejected school and town budgets that included more money for school security. Tuesday’s vote came four months after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. The budgets would have added $770,000 dollars to hire more police and school guards. Town leaders say voters balked at overall spending increases and tax hikes.

Wall Street was held back today by some weak corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 43 points to close at 14,676. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a point to close at 3,269.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Gwen.