May 13, 2015—On April 25, 2015, an M7.9 Himalayan earthquake centered roughly 80 km northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal was felt throughout parts of South Asia. Alliance staff felt the tremors in Dhaka, located approximately 700 km from the epicenter, and took immediate steps to assess any potential structural damage to garment factories that may have resulted from the aftershocks.
Informed by both the Alliance's prior structural assessments and worker calls to the Alliance helpline to report damage, engineers determined that 51 factories were most at risk for earthquake-related damage. Alliance inspectors assessed all 51 factories within 72 hours of the earthquake. The inspectors found structural damage at three of the 51 factories.
For these factories, the Alliance worked with factory owners, member companies and the Bangladesh government to ensure worker safety by evacuating workers and suspending production while necessary repairs were completed. The factories made the necessary repairs and resumed production, and Alliance leadership is working to secure compensation for workers displaced by the temporary closure of these factories, 50% of which is available to be paid by the Alliance directly.
The Alliance's inspection system and ability to mobilize engineers and inspectors in an emergency situation, coupled with the utility of the Alliance helpline (Amader Kotha, or Our Voice) in allowing workers to report concerns in real time—helped ensure a swift and targeted response to this earthquake. A similar approach guided our assessment efforts following the tremor on May 12, after which the Alliance did not uncover any damage to factories as a result of the aftershocks.
Alliance staff is now working to formalize these response measures related to earthquakes and other natural disasters, including developing additional response training for factory workers, supervisors, and security staff.