27 Apr 2013

Four arrests made in Bangladesh factory collapse

Two factory bosses and two engineers are arrested in Bangladesh after the collapse of a low-cost garment factory killed 352 earlier this week, with around 900 people still missing.

The search continues for missing factory workers

The death toll in Dhaka has risen to 352 but many are still being found alive amid the rubble. As many as 900 people could still be missing, police said.

While one of the owners of the eight-storey building is believed to still be on the run, today police arrested another owner, the managing director and two engineers who were involved in the construction of the building.

Officials said Rana Plaza, on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, had been built illegally without the correct permits, and the 3,000 workers were allowed in on Wednesday despite warnings the previous day that it was structurally unsafe.

Two engineers involved in building the Rana Plaza were also arrested at their homes early this morning. They were arrested for dismissing a warning not to open the building after cracks were noticed on Tuesday.

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

The owner and managing director of the largest of the five factories in the New Wave Style complex 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, including Primark, occupied upper floors of the building that officials said had been added illegally.

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

Another owner is still on the run, although an alert has gone out to airport and border authorities to prevent him fleeing the country. Two of his relatives have also been detained to compel him to hand himself in.

Safety questions

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 on the outskirts of Dhaka 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 this morning, smashing and burning cars and sparking more clashes with police who responded with tear gas.

Marina Begum, 22, told of her ordeal inside the broken building for three days.

“It felt like I was in hell,” she told reporters from her hospital bed. “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 extract 15 people trapped under the broken concrete who were being supplied with dried food, bottled water and oxygen.

About 2,500 people have been rescued, at least half of them injured, from the remains of the building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 20 miles from Dhaka.