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Protests spread in Bangladesh amid arrests

Clashes reported in Chittagong city as three of the five arrested over building collapse tragedy appear in court.

Last Modified: 28 Apr 2013 05:44
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Protests in Bangladesh have spread to a second city with hundreds of people throwing stones and setting fire to vehicles, as authorities made arrests in connection with the collapse of factory building that killed more than 350 workers.

Police said on Saturday they had arrested two owners of the garment businesses and two engineers involved in approving the design of the shoddily constructed eight-story building which collapsed on Wednesday.

Shamsul Haque Tuku, deputy home minister, said police had arrested Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Wave Apparels Ltd, and Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, the company chairman.

The two owners and one of the engineers appeared in court on Saturday where the faced charges connected with the collapse, the death toll of which has risen to 361 on Sunday, according to local media and reports.

The deputy home minister also told reporters that police had detained the wife of Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, for questioning. The top three floors of the eight-story building were illegally constructed.

"Everyone involved - including the designer, engineer, and builders - will be arrested for putting up this defective building," Haque said.

Dhaka police superintendent Habibur Rahman said Rana was a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front.

The two owners and one of the engineers appeared in court on Saturday where the faced charges connected with the collapse, the death toll of which has risen to 361 on Sunday, according to local media and reports.

Without permits

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.

At least 23 people were pulled out alive from under the tangled mess of concrete, bricks and steel on Saturday, more than 72 hours after the building came down that has claimed the lives of at least 340 people.

"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 news agency.

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

Police in riot gear formed a cordon around the site to keep away hundreds of protesters who have vented their anger at the situation since Wednesday.

Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the prime minister, pledged there would be justice in the worst tragedy to hit Bangladesh's poorly regulated garment industry that supplies clothes to top Western brand names.

Anger has grown and protests have spread across Bangladesh even as protesters clashed with the police in Savar, the site of the accident, for the second day.

Worker safety

Police said on Saturday that clashes had erupted in other parts of Dhaka and in the southeastern city of Chittagong where hundreds of garment workers took to the streets, blocked roads and vandalised vehicles.

Authorities shut garment factories in Dhaka for fear of violence, which has persisted over demands that authorities take stern action against the guilty.

Wednesday's collapse was the second major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world.

In November last year, 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.

There is anger over the working conditions of Bangladesh's 3.6 million garment workers - most of whom are women - who toil for $38 a month.

Human Rights Watch said the tragedy showed there was an "urgent need to improve Bangladesh’s protections for worker health and safety".

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