29 Apr 2013

More Bangladesh building collapse survivors ‘unlikely’

Rescue officials in Bangladesh say they are unlikely to find any more survivors in the rubble of a factory building and are now using heavy cranes to lift concrete blocks off the wreckage.

The death toll stands at 381 but hundreds more workers thought to have been inside the building remain unaccounted for.

Rescue efforts were further hampered by a fire over night; sparks from cutting equipment ignited debris as teams raced to save a woman who may have been the last survivor.

An army spokesman said they are giving the highest priority to saving people but added: “There is little hope of finding anyone alive.” Families of the missing are still waiting at the site, though some have given up hope of finding their relatives alive.

The building’s owner was arrested by police commandos on Sunday. He is reported to have been trying to flee to India and a Bangladesh court today granted police 15 days to interrogate him.

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Officials say the eight-storey complex was built on swampy ground without proper permission. More than 3,000 workers entered the building on Wednesday morning despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.

An estimated 2,500 people have been rescued from the building, which is just 30km from the capital, Dhaka.

Anger over the disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes with paramilitary troops deployed in the industrial hub of Gazipur as workers took to the streets smashing cars and setting fire to an ambulance.

Police fired teargas to disperse protesters but unrest forced authorities to close some factories, which reopened today after two days of closures. The main opposition has now called for a national strike on 2 May in protest.

A spokesman at the British High Commission today confirmed that an offer of technical assistance from Britain had been declined.