SAVAR, Bangladesh - Rescuers tried to free dozens of people believed trapped in the concrete rubble after an eight-story building that housed garment factories collapsed, killing at least 87. Workers had complained about cracks in the structure before it came tumbling down but were assured it was safe.
Searchers cut holes in the jumbled mess of concrete with drills or their bare hands, passing water and flashlights to those pinned inside the building near Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka.
"I gave them whistles, water, torchlights. I heard them cry. We can't leave them behind this way," said fire official Abul Khayer. Rescue operations illuminated by floodlights continued through the night.
The disaster came less than five months after a factory fire killed 112 people and underscored the unsafe conditions in Bangladesh's massive garment industry.
Workers said they had hesitated to go to into the building on Wednesday morning because it had developed such large cracks a day earlier that it even drew the attention of local news channels.
Abdur Rahim, who worked on the fifth floor, said a factory manager gave assurances that there was no problem, so employees went inside.
"After about an hour or so, the building collapsed suddenly," Rahim said. He next remembered regaining consciousness outside.
On a visit to the site, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters the building had violated construction codes and "the culprits would be punished."
Among the textile businesses in the building were Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd., which make clothing for major brands including The Children's Place, Dress Barn, and Primark.
Workers said they didn't know what specific clothing brands were being produced in the building because labels are attached after the products are finished.
Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, says his staff is investigating the situation.
He's hoping his team, working with local workers' groups, will be able to find out which brands were having their products made at the time of the collapse.
"You can't trust many buildings in Bangladesh," Kernaghan said. "It's so corrupt that you can buy off anybody and there won't be any retribution."
Sumi, a 25-year-old worker who goes by one name, said she was sewing jeans on the fifth floor with at least 400 others when the building fell.
"It collapsed all of a sudden," she said. "No shaking, no indication. It just collapsed on us."