Savar, Apr 27 (PTI): Four people, including two factory owners, were arrested today in connection with a building collapse disaster in Bangladesh that killed at least 346, as rescuers raced against time to save people trapped under the mangled pile of metal and concrete.
Rana Plaza, the eight-storey commercial building that collapsed on Wednesday, housed five garment units supplying Western clothes retailers, a branch of a private bank and about 300 shops.
So far 346 bodies have been pulled out while 2,428 people have been rescued alive as the country witnessed the biggest ever rescue drill.
“We have now mobilised all our efforts to rescue alive the survivors,” an army spokesman said.
Twenty six more survivors were rescued today as supply of oxygen along with dry food and water kept alive a number of trapped people even after 72 hours of the collapse.
New Wave Bottoms Chairman Bazlus Samad and its managing director Mahmudur Rahman Tapash were arrested after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered capture of the owners of the factories housed in the collapsed building.
Two engineers of Savar municipality were also arrested on charge of playing down the danger from the cracks that developed in the building.
Police had filed a case against them for “death due to negligence”.
Locals said around 3,500 workers, mostly women, of the garment factories were working when the tragedy struck.
The owner of the building was still on the run.
Meanwhile, thousands of garment factory workers in different parts of the capital took to the streets to protest the deaths in Savar and vandalised several vehicles including buses and cars at Shewrapara.
Incumbent fire service director general Brigadier General Ali Ahmed said until tomorrow morning the rescuers would manually proceed penetrating the ruins with manual drill machines and concrete cutters so that the last of the survivors could be rescued alive.
He said the salvage workers were first proceeding “vertically and then horizontally” inside the “sandwiched” floors to look for survivors.
“We will start using heavy equipment (cranes and bulldozers) after rescuing the last of the survivors,” Army General Hassan Sarwardy told reporters here.
Rescuers found about 50 people alive yesterday at the most vulnerable backside of the collapsed structure where they penetrated with manual drill machines and rod cutters and retrieved 20 of them in critical conditions.
A fire service official said yesterday that two babies were miraculously born under the debris as their pregnant mothers were trapped under the ruins but they were rescued alive along with their newborn babies.
The country witnessed last major building collapse in 2005 when over 70 people were killed after a multi-storied garment factory collapsed in the same area, an incident followed by the collapse of a five-storey building at Tejgaon’s Begumbari area in 2010 claiming 25 lives.
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.