Four arrested as Bangladesh building collapse toll rises to 352

Rescue workers look for trapped garment workers at the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka Credit: Reuters
Rescue workers look for trapped garment workers at the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka
Credit: Reuters

Two factory bosses and two engineers were arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday, three days after the collapse of a building where low-cost garments were made for Western brands, as the death toll rose to 352 but many were still being found alive.

As many as 900 people could still be missing, police said.

The owner of the eight-storey building that fell like a pack of cards around more than 3,000 workers was still on the run.

Police said several of his relatives were detained to compel him to hand himself in, and an alert had gone out to airport and border authorities to prevent him from fleeing the country.

Officials said Rana Plaza, on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, had been built without the correct permits, and the workers were allowed in on Wednesday despite warnings the previous day that it was structurally unsafe.

Two engineers involved in building the complex were also arrested at their homes early on Saturday, Dhaka district police chief Habibur Rahman said. He said they were arrested for dismissing a warning not to open the building after a jolt was felt and cracks were noticed on some pillars the previous day.

The owner and managing director of the largest of the five factories in the complex, New Wave Style, surrendered to the country’s garment industry association during the night and they were handed over to police.

The factory, which listed many European and North American retailers as its customers, occupied upper floors of the building that officials said had been added illegally.

“PEOPLE ARE ASKING FOR HIS HEAD”

“Everyone involved – including the designer, engineer, and builders – will be arrested for putting up this defective building,” said junior internal affairs minister Shamsul Huq.

An alliance of leftist parties which is part of the ruling coalition said it would call a national strike on May 2 if all those responsible for the disaster were not arrested by Sunday.

Rahman identified the owner of the building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front.

“People are asking for his head, which is quite natural,” said H.T. Imam, an adviser to the prime minister.

Wednesday’s collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory nearby the latest disaster killed 112 people.

Such incidents have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages, and could taint the reputation of the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.

Anger over the working conditions of Bangladesh’s 3.6 million garment workers – most of whom are women – has grown since the disaster, triggering protests.

Hundreds were on the streets again on Saturday, smashing and burning cars and sparking more battles with police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Eyewitnesses said dozens of people were injured in the latest clashes.

Remarkably, people were still being pulled alive from the precarious mound of rubble – 21 in all since dawn on Saturday.

“We must salute the common people who dared to enter the wreckage to rescue them, as even our professionals didn’t dare to take the risk,” Mizanur Rahman, deputy director of the fire service, told Reuters.

Marina Begum, 22, spoke from a hospital bed of her ordeal inside the broken building for three days.

“It felt like I was in hell,” she told reporters. “It was so hot, I could hardly breathe, there was no food and water. When I regained my senses I found myself in this hospital bed.”

Frantic efforts were under way to save 15 people trapped under the concrete who were being supplied with dried food, bottled water and oxygen.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the remains of the building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from Dhaka.

WRONG PERMIT, ILLEGAL FLOORS

Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of the state-run Capital Development Authority (CDA), said the owner of the building had not received the proper building consent, obtaining a permit for a five-storey building from the local municipality, which did not have the authority to grant it.

“Only CDA can give such approval,” he said. “We are trying to get the original design from the municipality, but since the concerned official is in hiding we cannot get it readily.”

Furthermore, another three storeys had been added illegally, he said. “Savar is not an industrial zone, and for that reason no factory can be housed in Rana Plaza,” Islam told Reuters.

Islam said the building had been erected on the site of a pond filled in with sand and earth, which meant its foundations were too weak.

“There were three big and very heavy generators that shook the whole building when they were operating. On that day the generators were being used and within seconds the building collapsed,” Islam said.

Sixty percent of Bangladesh’s garment exports go to Europe. The United States takes 23 percent and Canada takes 5 percent.

North American and European chains, including British retailer Primark and Canada’s Loblaw, a unit of George Weston Ltd, said they were supplied by factories in the Rana Plaza building.

Loblaw, which had a small number of “Joe Fresh” apparel items made at one of the factories, said on Saturday that it was working with other retailers to provide aid and support.

It said it was sending representatives to Bangladesh and was also joining what it described as an urgent meeting with other retailers and the Retail Council of Canada.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

Television

'Full House' might be relaunched with some of…

A new "Full House" might be in the works.

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.