Bangladeshi rescuers work to pull down rubble at the site of a building that collapsed Wednesday in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 26, 2013. More than two days after their factory collapsed on them, at least some garment workers were still alive in the corpse-littered debris Friday, pinned beneath tons of mangled metal and concrete. The death toll topped 300 on Friday and it remained unclear what the final grim number would be. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh arrested two owners of a garment factory in a shoddily-constructed building that collapsed this week, killing at least 324 people, as protests spread to a second city Saturday with hundreds of people throwing stones and setting fire to vehicles.
Also Saturday, police detained for questioning two engineers who were involved in approving the design of the 8-story building. The wife of the building owner, who is on the run, was also detained in an attempt to force him to surrender.
Rescue workers continued to bring badly decomposed bodies out of the tangled mess of concrete, bricks and steel amid frenzied efforts to pull out remaining survivors, more than three days after the building [auth] came down in the worst tragedy to hit Bangladesh’s massive, but poorly regulated, garment industry that supplies clothes to top Western brand names.
Teams were going in from seven entry points gouged into the rubble. Every once in a while a body would be brought out, covered in cloth and plastic, to a spot where ambulances were parked. Workers furiously sprayed air-fresheners on the bodies to cover the stench, leaving the air thick with the smell of death and cheap perfume.
The bodies were kept at the nearby Adharchandra High School grounds before being handed over to families. Many people milled around at the school, waving photos of their missing loved ones.
Military spokesman Shahinul Islam said 324 bodies have been recovered and 2,419 survivors accounted for, including 19 who were pulled out Saturday.
“We will continue our operation for more survivors as long as it is required. We are not thinking of wrapping up of our effort any time soon,” he said.
Subrata Sarker, a fire service official, said he saw 12 survivors in one place, of whom three were pulled out.
“There are many (survivors) still there,” Sarker told The Associated Press, during a break. Around him, soldiers, police and medical workers in lab coats swirled around in frenzied activity.
Police in riot gear formed a cordon around the site to keep away hundreds of protesters who have been venting their anger at the situation since Wednesday. The protests have spread outside Savar, a Dhaka suburb where the collapse happened.
Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used sticks to disperse several hundred stone-throwing garment workers Saturday in Savar, a police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Clashes also erupted in other parts of Dhaka and in the southeastern city of Chittagong where hundreds of garment workers took to the streets and vandalized vehicles.
They also put up roadblocks, disrupting traffic.
Authorities shut down garment factories in Dhaka for fear of violence, which has persisted over demands that police arrest the owners of the factories and the building.
Junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku said police had arrested Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Wave Apparels Ltd., and Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, the company chairman.
He told reporters that police had also 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.
Authorities are still searching for Rana, a local politician, who hasn’t been seen publicly since the building collapsed. Negligence cases have been filed against him. Police in Bangladesh often detain relatives of missing suspects as a way to pressure them to surrender.
Dhaka police superintendent Habibur Rahman said Rana was a local leader of ruling Awami League’s youth front. His arrest, and that of the factory owners, was ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Awami League leader.
Police said they detained for questioning two engineers, Imtemam Hossain and Alam Ali, on Saturday. They did not say what role they played in approving the design of the building but it was clear that the arrests amounted to a widening crackdown. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
AP writers Muneeza Naqvi and Tim Sullivan in New Delhi, Stephen Wright in Bangkok, Kay Johnson in Mumbai, Matthew Pennington in Washington and AP Retail Writer Anne D’Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.