Abir Abdullah covers the Rana Plaza Building Collapse

Body of a female garment worker trapped under the debris of the collapsed building at Savar, Bangladesh April 26, 2013. The death toll has risen to 390 from the April 24 collapse of eight-story Rana Plaza building located in Savar, outside Dhaka, Bangladesh. Abir Abdullah/Alexia Foundation

Today’s graphic photo will become part of the final project of Abir Abdullah’s “The Deadly Cost of Cheap Clothing: Dangers in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry” which was awarded the 2013 professional grant in March.

The image above is from Abir’s coverage of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, a suburb of Dhaka. The building housed numerous garment manufacturers. The work force was composed primarily of young women. Abir has been covering the tragedy and its aftermath since it occurred this past Tuesday.

“24 April was the death anniversary of my mother,” recounted Abir “I was sad and then got the news of the building collapse in the morning. Rushed to the place, saw a mini war zone. People screaming, running to rescue the victims. I had to take photos of so many deaths and destruction. How long will we have to take these kinds of photos?”

Abir reports that the latest death toll is 390. Although 4 people were pulled out of the rubble on Sunday, hope of finding survivors is fading. Hundreds are still missing and will likely add to the death toll.

Primark, a British retailer, and Loblaws, from Canada, have both admitted to having goods manufactured in the Rana Plaza building. Many retailers who were listed as clients by firms within the building, such as Walmart, Matalan, Benetton and Mango, say that they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse, or had not recently ordered garments from them, according to the Guardian.

Whoever the final retailer was for these factories, the clothes were likely destined for Western markets. Garment manufacturing accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports, primarily to the U.S. and the European Union.

This latest tragedy underscores the importance of Abir’s work, and its introduction to the public. The tragic November 2012 Tazreen Fashion Factory fire which killed 112 did nothing to make working conditions safer. Employees who tried to refuse to enter the Rana Plaza building when it showed clear structural deficiencies were threatened with the docking of a month’s pay, reported Bloomberg.

The New Yorker and ABC News have published selections of Abir’s work to draw attention to this issue.

Images of substandard working conditions and the brutal deaths they cause, like this one, need to come to light to confront the world with the true cost of cheaply purchased garments.

The Alexia Foundation supports our grantees to produce stories and images that drive change. See previous photos of the day here.

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