29 Apr 2013

Bangladesh rescuers locate nine people alive

6:17 am on 29 April 2013

Bangladesh rescuers located nine people alive inside the rubble of an eight-storey building that collapsed on Wednesday killing hundreds of people.

The coordinator of the rescue operations says they will try to save the nine people first by manually shifting concrete blocks with the help of light equipment such as pick axes and shovels reports AAP.

But he says if they fail they will start the next phase within hours, which would include the use of heavy equipment, including hydraulic cranes and cutters to bore a hole from the top of the collapsed building.

Two factory owners arrested

Bangladeshi police say they have arrested two owners of garment factories based in the building.

Three days on from the disaster, the death toll has risen to 363 with the removal of more bodies - most in a state of decay - from the wreckage of the building in the industrial town of Savar.

Dhaka deputy police chief Shyaml Mukherjee says police have filed a case against two owners for "death due to negligence", after prime minister Sheikh Hasina said owners forced staff to return to work despite cracks appearing in the building a day earlier.

"We've arrested Bazlus Samad, the chairman of New Wave Buttons and New Wave Style factories, and Mahmudur Rahaman Tapash, a managing director of one of these plants," Mr Mukherjee says.

The owner of the whole building is thought to have gone into hiding.

Survivors say the building developed visible cracks on Tuesday evening, but factory bosses demanded staff return to the production lines despite a police evacuation order.

A manager for New Wave Styles, one of five manufacturers in the building, said the owner had consulted an engineer but then ignored his warnings.

Huge crowds of workers protest

Earlier, police battled to control huge crowds of angry garment workers protesting over the tragedy, the latest to befall Bangladesh's huge garment sector, a big foreign-exchange earner for the country.

Tear-gas and rubber bullets were fired at the workers - who sew clothes for well-known Western brands for as little as $US37 a month - after they blocked roads and attacked factories and buses in textile-making districts around Dhaka.

The accident has prompted new accusations from labour activists that Western clothing companies place profit before safety by sourcing their products from Bangladesh, despite its shocking track record of deadly disasters.

Last November a fire at a factory making products for Walmart and other Western labels left 111 people dead, with survivors describing how fire exits were kept locked by site managers.

50 found alive on third floor

Police said 2431 people are known to have survived, but the Bangladeshi army said many are severely injured.

Exhausted rescue teams of soldiers, firemen and volunteers using concrete-cutters and drilling machines have been racing against time in searing heat to find more survivors.

A fire service official told AFP rescuers found about 50 people still alive on the third floor of the factory complex on Friday.