DHAKA, Bangladesh — Ten days after the horrifying collapse of a garment-factory building, life has become still more gruesome for crews working to recover bodies at the site. The death toll rose to 547 on Saturday and the stench of decaying flesh was sickening evidence that the work is not yet done.
Rescue workers said some bodies have deteriorated so badly that they have found bones without flesh. Since the April 24 collapse in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, high temperatures have generally been 32 degrees C (90 degrees F) or above, and lows have rarely dipped below 27 C (80 F).
"The bodies are smelling. We are using air freshener to work here," said Mohibul Alam, a firefighter at the collapse scene. The odor of decay is overpowering just the same. Bodies have decomposed beyond recognition, Alam said, but he added that some could still be identified because the victims' identification cards were found with them.
Some of the victims who had been closest to escaping appear to be among the last to be recovered. Only now have rescuers dug deep enough, using cranes and other equipment, to approach the stairs of the ground floor.
The death toll from the collapse was expected to climb. The disaster is likely the worst garment-factory accident ever.
Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry supplies retailers around the world and accounts for about 80 percent of the impoverished country's exports. The collapse has raised strong doubts about retailers' claims that they could ensure worker safety through self-regulation.
Mainuddin Khandkar, the head of a government committee investigating the disaster, said Friday that substandard building materials, combined with the vibration of the heavy machines used by the five garment factories inside the Rana Plaza building, led to the horrific collapse. Because of a power outage, heavy generators were turned on about 15 minutes before the building fell, he said.