Mass march in Bangladesh over factory deaths

Thousands of factory workers stream through Dhaka and block highway to protest building collapse and working conditions.

    Protesters wielding bamboo sticks and placards have blocked a Dhaka highway that leads to the building that collapsed five days ago, killing at least 382 people.

    Thousands of workers walked out of their factories on Monday and began a protest march through Dhaka.

    The protesters blockaded the road and were chanting "Hang Rana" in reference to the owner of the collapsed compound.

    While the protesters chanted in the streets, a court gave police 15 days to interrogate Rana, who as arrested on Sunday in the western border town of Benapole, where he was apparently trying to flee to India.

    "The human-faced beast who had built a death trap here was arrested while trying to flee the country," Jahangir Kabir Nanak, a local government minister, said while touring the rubble in Savar, 25km northwest of Dhaka.

    He will be held for questioning on charges of negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work.

    His father, Abdul Khaleque, was also arrested on suspicion of aiding Rana to force people to work in a dangerous building.

    Rana was brought to the Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in a bullet-proof vest, and led away to an unknown detention place after the magistrate granted a police request to hold him longer before filing formal charges.

    Rana is a local politician with the ruling Awami League party

    The crimes he is accused of carry a maximum punishment of seven years, although more charges could be added later.

    Hundreds missing

    Rescue workers in Bangladesh are doubtful more survivors will be found, after a fire delayed their efforts to dig into the rubble of a building that collapsed five days ago.

    Officials leading the operation said on Monday it was unlikely more lives would be saved after they failed to rescue a young woman named Shahanaz, whom they believe was the last remaining survivor.

    "We found a woman alive," Mustafa Kamal, a volunteer rescue operator, told Al Jazeera. "When we went to rescue her, an outsider joined the operation with a metal grinder, and from there it sparked, it led to a fire, and she died”.

    The firefighters managed to put out the fire, but the smoke spread to several floors leading them to believe that there are no more survivors.

    Major-General Hasan Suhrawardy, chief of the rescue operation, said the crew was using cranes and other heavy equipment "very carefully with a priority to save the survivors, if any".

    About 2,500 survivors have been accounted for, but hundreds remain missing after the eight-storey Rana Plaza collapsed on Wednesday morning.

    Western brands are facing criticism after the collapse of yet another Bangladesh building housing garment factories

    Arrests made

    Three owners and top executives of factories in the building have been arrested, and three remained at large.

    The factory owners were accused of negligence and ignoring warnings issued by officials a day before the collapse that the building was unsafe due to large cracks.

    The owners and managers of the factories forced employees to work despite knowing of the cracks, a complaint filed with police said.

    Four government engineers, who approved and supervised the planning and construction of buildings, were also arrested.

    Late on Sunday, police arrested Anisur Rahman, chairman of Ether Text factory, which was housed in the building.

    Among the accused was a Spanish national, David Mayor, managing director of Phantom Tac Ltd, a joint venture between Phantom Apparels Ltd of Bangladesh and Textile Audit Co SL of Spain.

    Police said they were unaware of the whereabouts of Mayor, who invested in the factory in 2009.

    Attention has now turned to the reaction big-name brands whose clothes were being made in the factory, with companies such as Primark and Joe Fresh saying they will provide compensation.

    The accident has rekindled a debate about safety standards at Bangladeshi garment factories, many of which produce clothes for Western retailers.

    The clothing industry accounts for 79 per cent of Bangladesh's export earnings and is worth $20bn annually.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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