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Rescues and arrests in Bangladesh building collapse

April 27, 2013|By Mark Magnier
  • A relative of a missing garment worker holds up a picture of his loved one as rescue workers search through the rubble of a building that collapsed this week outside Dhaka in Bangladesh.
A relative of a missing garment worker holds up a picture of his loved one… (Kevin Frayer / Associated…)

NEW DELHI -- As the death toll rose to at least 345 people, more than two dozen more survivors were rescued Saturday from the rubble of a nine-story factory building outside the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka that collapsed Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, government officials detained five people, including two factory owners, on capital charges in response to the tragedy that has led to widespread public protests.

Rescue efforts were hampered by rain Saturday, but soldiers and volunteers, many moving debris with their hands, managed to retrieve 29 survivors from the Rana Plaza building, local media reported. Authorities initially said they would halt rescue efforts Friday night, some 72 hours after the collapse. But with survivors still being pulled out alive and relatives threatening to riot, the deadline was extended.

“We want to ensure that everyone trapped inside are rescued,”  army Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardi told journalists.

Police had ordered an evacuation Tuesday after cracks appeared in the building, which housed five garment factories, a shopping complex and a bank branch. But employees were told it wasn’t serious and were ordered back to work, according to local media.

The building was approved for five stories, but the structure’s politically connected owner, Sohel Rana, reportedly added three floors illegally and was building another one.

Factory owners Bazlus Samad and Mahmudur Rahman Tapash were detained Saturday and face “death due to negligence” charges, according to local police. Also detained were local government engineers Imtemam Hossain and Alam Miah, police said, for giving the building the all-clear Tuesday night, hours before the collapse.

Samad’s company, New Wave Apparels, makes clothing for several major North American and European retailers, according to its website.

Garment workers demonstrated for a third day Saturday, vandalizing three factories, blocking traffic and smashing more than 150 cars in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj.

Rescue workers managed to drill a hole from the side of the building into the deepest part of the wreckage, the former second and third floors of the pancaked building. Two volunteers, Kamrul Islam, 28, and Atan, 30, both rickshaw pullers, crept into the narrow gap and pulled out as many as 23 people overnight, according to Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper. “Both of them are very lean,” the paper said. “They could slip in through narrow holes easily.”

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