The revelation by Shahnewaz Mohammad Golam Zakaria coincides with a petition from campaign group Avaaz of more than 828,000 people that is calling on garment companies including Gap Inc and Hennes & Mauritz AB to up their precautions on fire safety and overall standards at the factories of their suppliers.

“These factories aren’t sweatshops, they’re death shops,” Avaaz campaign director Alex Wilks claimed in a statement. “Hundreds of women have been crushed to death making our clothes.”

The official figure following the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh a fortnight ago is 960 of the up to 6000 people who worked there.

The owners of the building have been arrested and their assets have been seized.

Hundreds of Bangladeshis have marched in the streets demanding Sohel Rana face the death penalty.

When crack were discovered in the building on April 23, employees were sent back to work, said Mokhlesur Rahman, director general of enforcement agency the Rapid Action Battalion.

The Bangladesh government has now ordered 18 garment manufacturers in two major cities to close their factories yesterday as they assess regulations and safety standards.

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