Dozens rescued but Bangladesh building toll soars towards 300

DHAKA - Rescuers pulled dozens of survivors from the rubble of Bangladesh's worst industrial accident on Friday, but the death toll rose towards 300 after the collapse of a building housing factories that made low-cost garments for Western brands.

Almost miraculously, 62 people trapped beneath the rubble since the eight-storey building collapsed on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday were rescued alive overnight, police and government officials said.

However, there were fears between 300 and 400 people were still inside. "Some people are still alive under the rubble and we are hoping to rescue them," deputy fire services director Mizanur Rahman said.

Junior local government minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak said the death toll had reached 292 and H. T. Imam, an adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said it could top 350.

Anger over the working conditions of Bangladesh's 3.6 million garment workers, the overwhelming majority of them women, has grown steadily since the disaster, with thousands taking to the streets to protest on Friday.

Nanak said 41 people were pulled alive from one room on the fourth floor overnight, almost 40 hours after the Rana Plaza building collapsed with more than 3,000 people inside.

Around 2,300 people have been rescued so far, at least half of them injured, from the remains of the building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from Dhaka.

An industry official has said 3,122 people, mainly female garment workers, had been inside the building despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.

Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of garments in the world but many factories remained closed for a second day on Friday, with angry garment workers protesting against poor conditions and demanding the owners of the building and the factories it housed face harsh punishment.

Police and witnesses said protesters set fire to a number of vehicles and damaged other garment factories.

Dhaka District police chief Habibur Rahman identified the owner of the Rana Plaza building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a leader of the ruling Awami League's youth front.

Imam, the prime minister's adviser, said Rana had "vanished into thin air".

"People are asking for his head, which is quite natural. This time we are not going to spare anybody," Imam said.

Garment workers trapped under rubble of collapsed Bangladesh building
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