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Pope condemns Bangladesh building collapse

JURAIN, Bangladesh -- Dozens of Bangladeshi garment workers, their bodies too battered or decomposed to be identified, were buried in a mass funeral Wednesday, a week after the eight-story building they worked in toppled down, killing at least 410 people and injuring thousands.

Hundreds attended the traditional Muslim funeral and many more looked on from the roofs of nearby buildings as the bodies, rotting in the spring heat, were brought to the graveyard on the back of flatbed trucks.

Cemetery workers have dug several long rows of graves as authorities expect to bury scores more unidentified bodies in the coming days.

"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, five months after a fire killed 112 people at another clothing factory. The tragedies exposed the unsafe conditions plaguing Bangladesh's $20-billion-a-year garment industry, which supplies many European and American retailers.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was shocked by a headline about the building collapse that said some of the workers were living on 38 euros 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.

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?"

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.

Pressure built inside Bangladesh as well, as a May Day procession of workers on foot, pickup trucks and motorcycles wound its way through central Dhaka demanding safe working conditions and capital punishment for the building's owner. The death toll from the collapse passed 400 Wednesday, with a total of 410 people confirmed dead so far, police said.

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